Firm fined £100k over worker's death in feed mixer
In only the second case of its kind, a Northern Ireland firm was fined for corporate manslaughter of one of its employees.
Co Down firm J Murray & Son Ltd was fined £100,000 – plus £10,000 costs – for health and safety failings which led to the unlawful death of 47-year-old employee Norman Porter on February 28, 2012.
Mr Porter died after he either fell or was dragged into an animal feed machine. He was found "entangled" within its blades, and had suffered "an horrific death", an earlier hearing was told.
A similar charge against company director James Daniel Murray (69), also of Burn Road in Ballygowan, was not proceeded with after his guilty plea on behalf of his company.
However, in an effort to safeguard the 16 company jobs, Downpatrick Crown Court has allowed the firm to pay the fine in annual instalments of £20,000.
Mr Justice Weir, sitting in Belfast's Laganside Courthouse, said that the totally preventable and foreseeable death of Mr Porter was both "terrible and dreadful", and that he wanted to "re-emphasise that neither this nor any fine can, nor is it intended, to value the deceased's life in money".
However, the judge said while the fine "will do little to assuage" the family's deep sense of loss at his "needless death", it was the only penalty open to "mark the court's strong disapproval" of the company's negligence.
An official investigation into the fatal incident revealed that the blending machine in which Mr Porter was mangled had been operated without safety guards for three years. They were removed to allow raw ingredients to be added more easily, but at the same time, exposed the dangerous mixing blades of the machine.
Mr Justice Weir, said that in his judgement the machine could have been "safely and cheaply modified to render it safe".
Despite the judgment, not all members of the Porter family were happy with the outcome.
Speaking on behalf of the "paternal side" of the family, his brother Brian said they had been left "with many unanswered questions that are important to us as a family and the loss of Norman's precious life".
Detective Constable Whitcombe said: "This conviction should be a stark reminder to all that legislation is there for a reason and of the subsequent consequences if it is not adhered to."