no embargo -2 December 2011(Back to news releases)
Deeside Metals pleads poverty and gets fine for the offences that killed Mark Wright cut in half by Court of Appeal
FACK spokesperson says: “ It is impossible to reconcile with justice the slashing of Deeside Metals Co. Ltd £100,000 fine, to only £50,000 to be paid over 5 years, for the health and safety offences that killed Mark Wright (1). Even though the judges commended and reiterated the correctness of the original judgment and fine, and the culpability of Deeside Metals, up to director level, for the offences that led to Mark’s death, the impact on Marks family, their major concern was Deeside’s ability to pay and claims they would go out of business if they had to pay £25,000 a year.
“This case also demonstrates more widely the lack of justice given to victims of workplace death and their families. Dorothy and Douglas Wright, Mark’s parents, received a personal apology from the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, in October for the many ways in which they were let down by the criminal justice system, and specifically for the failure of the Crown Prosecution Service to apply the law correctly and to bring a charge of manslaughter at the right time.”
Deeside Metals Company Ltd appeared at the Court of Appeal on Friday 2nd December, appealing against sentence of £100,000 to be paid over 4 years. Lady Justice Rafferty, Mr Justice Walker and The Recorder of Norwich reiterated the correctness of the original judgement and sentence imposed by His Honour Judge Merfyn Hughes QC, in the case of R v Robert Roberts, Deeside Metal Company Ltd and Jeyes Ltd on 13th December at Caernarfon. But the Justices accepted that, given the present financial state of Deeside Metals, and to protect the remaining four innocent employees, the sentence should be reduced to £50,000 (£25,000 for each offence) to be paid over 5 years.
“It is with great regret that I was denied the opportunity to attend this appeal due to my present state of health. I had fervently hoped that, on this occasion, the court would have taken into account ALL the circumstances in this case: the appalling level of negligence shown by Mark's employer which cost him his life, leaving his two young children fatherless; the horrendous errors made by the CPS which prevented criminal charges of manslaughter and corporate manslaughter being brought and heard by a jury; and the employer's singularly cruel, and heartless treatment of Mark's grieving family.
“I considered the sentence of a fine of £100, 000 payable over 4 years was already a small enough sum to be paid by the directors of Deeside Metal Co. Ltd. This huge reduction only sends a signal to other companies, including those owned by same directors as Deeside Metal Co Ltd, in the extremely dangerous business of metal waste recycling, that the justice system takes the death of workers very lightly. Indeed it would seem that all the killers have to do is plead poverty and their sentence is reduced without any great verification needed. In what other kind of criminal conviction would the court base their fine on the ability of the killer to pay without any difficulty?
“However, as the court accepted, a fine of any amount cannot possibly ever compensate us for the loss of our only son, nor the denial of the justice that should so rightly have been there for Mark, nor is it an adequate deterrent to negligent employers who risk workers lives every single day."
"We fear that the killing of workers will go on increasing greatly due to DWP Minister of Employment Grayling's cutbacks in the HSE budget, and his deregulation of health and safety laws under the guise of deficit reduction and reducing the 'burden' on employers to 'create jobs'. The only thing that this policy will create is a huge increase in the number of workers and public being killed in the name of profit, with more families like ours robbed of people we love and then denied justice"
"My son was denied his most precious possession, his life. His country then betrayed him to protect his killer. Their financial sentence is cut by half. Our sentence is for life"
FACK spokesperson adds: “We believe this is a case which demonstrates the need for positive legal duties for health and safety on directors, to hold them properly to account for their action and inactions, so that directors found guilty of gross negligence that kills a worker, or member of the public, face possible imprisonment. A fine that can be appealed and cut by half does not seem a proportionate or just sentence for such an act, nor is it likely to act as a deterrent.
“One can only hope and pray that Deeside Metal Co Ltd now protects the lives and health of the four remaining workers better than they did Mark’s, and shows more concern for them than suggested by a shockingly contemptuous statement at the Inquest that there was no point showing workers written risk assessment as they were all illiterate. We would also hope that they behave better than they did towards Mark’s family whom they accused of harassment for placing flowers near the site of his death at anniversaries.
“This judgement turns corporate manslaughter into corporate man’s laughter and is a terrible blow to Mark’s family almost 7 years after his death.”
For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557 or mobile: 079298 00240
1. On 12th April 2005 Mark Wright who worked at Deeside Metals in Saltney, near Chester, was ordered by his general manager to bale 4,000 sealed aerosol containers, which came from Jeyes of Mold. This was contrary to the manager’s own risk assessment and expressly forbidden by the baling machine manual. A cloud of volatile vapour was released and ignited by an electric spark. The roof was blown off the building and Mark suffered 90% burns in the explosion and died the next day. Mark was 37, married with two children Leigh and Megan.
Deeside Metals Co. Ltd, Mark’s employer, pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. Jeyes of Mold, where the aerosols originated, pleaded guilty to a charge under HASAWA. Mr Roberts, the General Manager at Deeside Metals, pleaded guilty to a charge under section 7 of the HASAWA.On 13th December 2010, His Honour Judge Merfyn Hughes QC, sentenced those involved as follows: Jeyes was fined £330,000 plus £50,000 costs; Deeside was fined £100,000 plus costs of £10,000 and Mr Roberts was fined £10,000. Deeside were given 4 years to pay with the first instalment of £25,000 to be paid on 13th December 2011. Deeside successfully appealed against this sentence on 2nd December at the Court of Appeal.