Northern Ireland firm admits blame over horrific feed mixer death
A company has pleaded guilty to the corporate manslaughter of one of its employees after a man suffered a horrific death when he was dragged into an animal feed mixing machine.
In only the second case of its kind in Northern Ireland, Co Down firm J Murray & Sons, of Burn Road in Ballygowan, faces sentence on Friday.
But a similar charge of the unlawful killing of Norman Porter on February 28, 2012, against company director James Daniel Murray (below), of the same address, was not proceeded with.
Prosecution QC Ciaran Murphy told Belfast Crown Court that 69-year-old Murray's guilty plea was acceptable as the company admitted it was their failures that caused the death of Mr Porter and amounted to a gross breach of a duty of care owed to him.
Mr Murphy also revealed that Mr Porter had suffered "a horrific death".
Mr Porter apparently had either fallen or was dragged into an animal feed mixing machine after it caught his clothing, and he was found entangled in its blades.
The lawyer said that the safety guards at the top of the machine had been removed and, according to an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, there was nothing to prevent this accident occurring.
There were also other heath and safety breaches and any employee could have ended up entangled in the machine.
Mr Murphy added later that the death of Mr Porter was entirely foreseeable and that the cost of making the machine safe by providing a new type of open mesh safety grill would not have been substantial to the company.
Defence QC Liam McCollum said that despite reports, Mr Murray wished to extend his sincere apologies and condolences to Mr Porter's family.
Mr McCollum said there was also a misunderstanding concerning comments by Mr Murray's son James to police afterwards, and seen by trial judge Mr Justice Weir as a possible cover-up. Mr Murray Jr, he said, had not tampered with the machine afterwards.
Mr McCollum said it was accepted that the company faced a substantial penalty, but revealed the Co Down firm was not in a healthy position and that jobs could be lost.
The lawyer also questioned what would be the ultimate objective in this and if anything would be achieved by putting a company out of business.