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Company owner jailed over apprentice's death

Published 14/07/2015

Cameron Minshull, 16, was dragged into an industrial steel cutting lathe after his overalls became trapped in the machinery, Manchester Crown Court heard
Cameron Minshull, 16, was dragged into an industrial steel cutting lathe after his overalls became trapped in the machinery, Manchester Crown Court heard
A businessman has been sentenced to eight months in prison after a teenager was killed at his factory

A businessman has been jailed for eight months after a teenager was killed at his factory while on a Government-funded apprenticeship.

Cameron Minshull, 16, was dragged into an industrial steel cutting lathe after his overalls became trapped in the machinery in a "horrific" accident, Manchester Crown Court heard.

The £3-an-hour apprentice was among the cheap labour employed by Zaffar Hussain, who owned and ran Huntley Mount Engineering Ltd in Bury, Greater Manchester, with his son, Akbar Hussain.

Cameron's apprenticeship was funded by the Government's Skills Training Agency, and he was placed at the firm by recruitment agency Lime People Training Solutions, who received a £4,500 Government payment.

But there was no safety regime at the firm, the youngsters were left untrained and unsupervised and safety guards had been taken off all the machinery, the court heard.

Cameron, from Bury, who was "proud of himself" for getting a job, had only worked at the firm for a month before he was killed.

Huntley Mount Engineering Ltd admitted corporate manslaughter following Cameron's death on January 8 2013 and was today fined £150,000.

Zaffar Hussain, 59, admitted neglect under health and safety laws and was jailed for eight months and banned from being a company director for 10 years.

His son, Akbar, 35, who worked as a supervisor at the firm, also admitted breaking health and safety legislation and was given a four month jail sentence, suspended for a year and a £3,000 fine.

The father and son and the firm were also each ordered to pay £15,000 in court costs.

The recruitment agency was also fined £75,000 for placing Cameron in a dangerous work environment. They were also ordered to pay £25,000 in court costs.

Outside court Cameron's mother, Joanne Hill, called on the Government to do more to vet training agencies for apprentices.

Ms Hill said: "We were proud of Cameron going to work and he was proud of himself too. He should never have died for doing the right thing, for going to work to earn a living and to be trained to become an engineer.

"Cameron's death is a tragedy for us. But it wasn't a tragic accident, it was due to terrible negligence and appalling lack of health and safety.

"We want the Government to make sure no other young person is ever at risk of being killed or hurt on a government approved apprenticeship, training or work experience."

Passing sentence Judge David Stockdale QC, said: "These young men, inadequately trained, inexperienced, unqualified and virtually unsupervised were effectively left to their own devices in a workshop containing fast running, unguarded machinery.

"To adopt a well worn but accurate phrase, Cameron Minshull's horrific accident was an accident waiting to happen."

The court heard it was the practice at Hussain's firm for young apprentices to clean the lathes, used to cut and make steel components, with emery paper while the machinery was still running. This should not have been possible but safety guards had been disabled, a practice which was "dangerous in the extreme".

Youngsters were simply warned to roll their sleeves up when cleaning the lathes.

Cameron, given oversized overalls that did not fit him properly, was cleaning a lathe when he got caught in the machinery, with parts revolving at up to 2,800 times a minute.

Cameron's upper body was then pulled into the machinery causing "catastrophic and lethal" injuries to his head and face, the court heard.

When his mother came to pick him up from work later she was met by two policemen. Her son was pronounced dead in hospital two hours after the accident.

The court heard while it was accepted the firm was "reckless" but had not intentionally put profits before safety, the firm did have a high turnover of staff and relied on work experience youngsters and apprentices for cheap labour which played a part in their profits.

Huntley Mount has now ceased trading and transferred its assets to another firm, run by Akbar Hussain, which will be liable for the fines and costs.

Lime People Training Solutions has gone into liquidation and it is not known if they have any assets to pay their fine and costs.

Elizabeth Reid, specialist prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Cameron Minshull's death was entirely avoidable.

"The company and its senior management allowed a 16-year-old apprentice to work on dangerous and defective machinery.

"Not only was Cameron Minshull put to work on machinery without any meaningful supervision but he was provided with limited training.

"The risks were obvious. The death of a 16-year-old could have been prevented.

"The CPS, Greater Manchester Police and the Health and Safety Executive worked together to investigate thoroughly and to prosecute appropriately those responsible for this work-related death."

Hilda Palmer, from Families Against Corporate Killers, which supported Cameron's family, said three days before the youngster's death Prime Minister David Cameron had given a speech about health and safety becoming an "albatross around the neck of British businesses".

Outside court Ms Palmer added: "The lie about the burden on business has been used to slash health and safety regulations, slash health and safety enforcement, so there's no scrutiny of the agencies and organisations and employers taking on young people at work."

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