Conley Thompson: Pipe death firm fined £600k over safety breaches

  • Published
Image source, Family handout
Image caption,
There was no suggestion of foul play in Conley Thompson's death, the court heard

Fencing around a building site where a seven-year-old boy died after getting trapped in a pipe was "wholly inadequate" a judge has said.

The body of Conley Thompson was found wedged inside a plastic tube on the site in Barnsley in 2015.

Howard Civil Engineering admitted two breaches of the health and safety act in March.

Fining the firm £600,000, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said the failures had exposed members of the public to harm.

"The site was obviously a death trap in so many respects, most building sites are. That is why it is necessary to keep people out of such places," Judge Richardson told Sheffield Crown Court.

Conley was reported missing having failed to return home after going out playing with friends on 26 July 2015, the court heard.

His body was found the following day on the Church View site in Worsbrough, where more than a dozen homes were being built.

Image source, HSE
Image caption,
Conley became stuck in the 9in (23cm) plastic pipe on the building site

The court heard Conley had entered into the 9in-wide (23cm) pipe feet first and become stuck.

Andrew McGee, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said there were a range of other risks on the site with no "effective boundary preventing people getting in".

Mr McGee described how the site was littered with open foundations, deep drops, pipes and various machinery, all of which were a "source of risk".

The judge said that the sloped land, surrounded by residential properties, made it "a challenge for any developer to secure the perimeter of this site".

However, he added it was "crucial" to make sure trespassers were kept out.

Image source, HSE
Image caption,
Inadequate and damaged fencing allowed people to enter the site, the court heard

He described the site was a "magnet" for children who would see it as a "wonderful adventure playground [but] it was, of course, nothing of the kind".

"A number of members of the public were exposed to harm," he added.

"This was a good company that made a bad mistake."

At a previous hearing, James Maxwell-Scott said managers at the firm were not aware children had been on the site before the boy's death.

Paul Yeadon, from HSE, said Conley's death was a "truly tragic event"

"It's been a very difficult case, I have children myself and the death of any child is a tragedy," he said.

"The level of fine is never going to truly value a child's life. For the HSE it's important to bring this prosecution to the court."

Michael Howard, of Howard Civil Engineering, said their thoughts were with Conley's family.

"We hope that the conclusion of this process can at least go some way in providing everyone affected by this tragedy with some resolution," he said.

"We have engaged fully with the Health and Safety Executive throughout its inquiry and in the seven years since this incident occurred have put in place several measures to ensure the perimeter integrity of all of our sites."

The firm was also ordered to pay costs of almost £43,000.

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