Sub-contractor unable to pay fine for health and safety failings

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66
Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

A roofing sub-contractor who accepted responsibility for health and safety failings which resulted in a fatality at a Derry construction site is unable to pay the £50,000 fine imposed because he has no assets, a court has heard.

Thirty-five-years-old joiner Philip Fenwick sustained a fatal head injury at a nursing home construction site on the Culmore Road in November 2014.

A roof truss, left dangling on a make shift sling, swung and struck him on the back of the head. Mr. Fenwck was not wearing a hard hat at the time, however Derry Crown Court had heard wearing one would not have prevented the fatal injury sustained by him.

Mid Ulster Contracts Limited from Coolmaghry Road in Dungannon, admitted four breaches of health and safety legislation in relation to Mr. Fenwick’s death.

The company’s sole director, Nigel Johnston was fined £50,000 and given twelve months to pay the fine.

A barrister representing Nigel Johnston said the business had collapsed following the site fatality.

He told the court Mr. Johnston’s company at the time of the tragedy was earning between £20,000 and £30,000 per annum and the contract at the nursing home was the biggest job the defendant’s business had ever undertaken.

The barrister added the adverse publicity following the fatality and subsequent court proceedings had contributed to the company’s downfall. He said the accounts for the trading year of 2017 to 2018 were still outstanding and would not be ready until October of this year.

However, the barrister told the court Mr Johnston’s only asset is a 2007 Ford Transit van and tools.

“He is now effectively a man of straw in that it is impossible to get blood from a stone”, the barrister said.

He told Judge Philip Babington the building site tragedy has weighed heavily on his client and he ‘wants to satisfy the fine but he simply doesn’t have the assets to do so’.

Judge Babington granted an application to adjourn the case until October for the accounts for the past financial year to be prepared.