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Tyrone builder should have been jailed over death of worker, court told

The decision not to imprison a building contractor for the manslaughter of a worker who fell from a slippery roof was unduly lenient, Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions argued on Friday.

Barra McGrory QC told the Court of Appeal it had been wrong to suspended Norman McKenzie's sentence following the death of Petyo Hristanov in January 2015.

Mr Hristanov, a 57-year-old father of two from Bulgaria, was fatally injured when he and a workmate fell from a partially constructed farm shed on Portadown's Derrycarne Road.

The accident occurred in rainy conditions where no scaffolding, safety nets or harnesses had been provided. 

Mr McGrory said: "These are migrant workers and they do not appear to be members of any union.

"Their only protection is the need for their employer to strictly adhere to safety regulations."

McKenzie, 48, from Drumgose Road in Dungannon, pleaded guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence earlier this year.

He received a 15-month sentence, suspended for three years, and was fined £3,000.

Senior judges heard he has shown extreme remorse for the death of a worker regarded more like a family member.

But the Director insisted the term handed down was too lenient.

"There were no grounds available to the court to reasonably suspend the sentence," he said.

The contractor had failed to heed weather warnings from his workers on the day of the accident, Mr McGrory pointed out.

"This is one of those limited categories of cases where the likely consequences can be fatal, and deterrent sentences are required," he added.

McKenzie sat head-bowed throughout the hearing before three appeal judges.

Defence counsel described him as "a broken man".

He also argued that his client was registered as a corporate business he would only have been facing a fine.

Taking issue with his submission, however, Lod Justice Gillen insisted that company representatives could face jail in similar cases.

"The law moves on, the need to protect workmen is now more obvious to us all," he said.

Reserving judgment in the Director's challenge, the judge pledged to give a decision within weeks.

McKenzie was released on continuing bail until that verdict is delivered.

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