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Falcon Cranes director let off hook

  

  

By Paul Street London Hazards Trust 

Falcon Cranes director let off hook 

Justice of sorts was finally won in Southwark Crown Court on the 15 March 2016 by families of Michael Alexa and Jonathan Cloke. Michael and Jonathan were killed in the Battersea crane disaster on 26 September 2006, when a tower crane owned by Falcon Cranes collapsed. Jonathan Cloke 37 was the crane driver; Michael Alexis 23 was cleaning his car next to the Barratt Homes site.

 

Falcon Cranes admitted breaches of sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act in respect of duties to ensure the health and safety of employees and not exposing workers to risk. His Honour Judge Alistair McCreath fined the company £750,000 plus £100,000 costs. But is this enough? After 10 years, has justice been finally secured from a system that is notorious for letting company directors off the hook?

 

Michael’s mother, Liliana Alexis, said “my life ended on that day, when my baby was killed, and I saw his lifeless body under the massive crane. Not one day passes by without thinking of him and how his life ended”. Members of the London Hazards Centre and Construction Safety Campaign were at the court to support the families.

 

The court heard how two months before the tragedy four ‘slew ring’ bolts had failed and replaced without any investigation into why this had happened (the slew ring is bolted to the tower of the crane and secures the horizontal jib, counterweight and operator cab). The critical underlying fault to the crane that was weakening the slew ring bolts went undetected because no check was carried out, and this ultimately led to most of the 24 slew ring bolts failing and the death of two young men. Falcon Cranes acknowledged proper procedures were not in place and accepted that their systems and procedures were at fault.

 The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the prosecution. Initially, Managing Director Douglas Genge was also going to be held personally liable for neglect. In the end, the company agreed to plead guilty on the condition that proceedings against Mr Genge be dropped. This was agreed after the prosecution and defence discussed the case and decided it would not be in the public interest to hold him personally liable. Separately, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided against bringing a manslaughter charge due to insufficient evidence. In the end, the company agreed to plead guilty on the condition that proceedings against Mr Genge be dropped. This was agreed after the prosecution and defence discussed the case and decided it would not be in the public interest to hold him personally liable. 

The court listened to the case made by the defence in mitigation. The company apparently had no previous convictions. Since the accident they had introduced a training scheme to improve standards. They had also stopped using the type of crane involved in the disaster. Finally, the court heard how the company had fallen on hard times with a reduction in turnover and no profit for 2 years.

 

When summing up, Judge Alistair McCreath described how he was trying to arrive at a “fair and proportionate sentence”. “It is not for me to put the company out of business” he said, and then paid tribute to the “quiet dignity” of the families of Michael and Jonathan present in court. Fine words count for nothing. Unless and until company directors face manslaughter charges in cases where there is evidence of ‘high culpability’ – and serve prison sentences – workers will continue being killed.

 

The London Hazards Centre (LHC) believes the theme for International Workers Memorial Day on 28 April 2016 sends the right message – ‘Strong Laws – Strong enforcement – Strong Unions’. We will continue to campaign for the introduction of a new and improved ‘Notification of Conventional Tower Crane Regulations’ to replace the regulations repealed by the Tory led coalition in 2013. The LHC also calls for all cranes to be subject to testing by inspectors independent of the crane provider and operator companies.

At the  Southwark Crown Court supporting the family were CSC construction safety campaign and London Hazards 

 

  

 
  

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This entry was posted on March 16, 2016 by .
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