Construction company fined €30k for health and safety breaches

Construction company fined €30k for health and safety breaches

A construction company fined €30,000 for health and safety breaches, following an incident in which a 73-year-old man tripped on a kerb and fractured his neck, has successfully objected to a review of its sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”.

Gibson Brothers (Ireland) Limited, with a registered head office at Kilmacrew Road, Banbridge, had pleaded guilty to two sample counts of health and safety breaches following an incident at works on a footpath in Dundalk in October 2007,

Michael Reynolds (72), fell over the kerb having left a bingo session in Clogherhead. He fractured his neck and later died.

Gibson Brothers had pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that persons other than employees were not exposed to risk of their safety and welfare. The company also pleaded guilty to failing to include in the construction place specific measures concerning work which involves a particular risk.

Judge Michael O'Shea sitting at Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court fined the company €30,000 on October 19, 2011.

The Director of Public Prosecutions had sought a review of the company's sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”.

However, lawyers for Gibson Brothers raised a preliminary objection that it had not been notified of the DPP's application in the manner required nor in the time limit required.

Upholding the preliminary objection, Mr Justice John Edwards said Section 10 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 provided for different modes of service in respect of a convicted human person as opposed to a convicted body corporate. There were three modes of service for a convicted human person and one for a person convicted as a body corporate.

Mr Justice Edwards said the DPP's document was delivered to the office of the company's solicitor where a legal secretary accepted service.

It might be one thing if the document had been served and accepted by a solicitor, Mr Justice Edwards said, but the fact it was accepted by a legal secretary was entirely different.

It could not be inferred that the secretary was aware of the document's significance nor could it be said that it was routine.

There was “nothing routine” about the DPP's right to seek a review of sentence, Mr Justice Edwards said. The jurisdiction was extraordinary and the implications for convicted persons were profound.

Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, said the court would uphold the preliminary objection.

On the question of legal costs, Mr Justice Birmingham said the penalties that were imposed in the Circuit Court were “lenient” but that was “far from an indication”, the judge stressed, that the penalties were unduly lenient.

He said the court felt an order for costs would not be appropriate.