Building firm fined £550000 after friends fell to their deaths in Camden
PUBLISHED: 08:54 28 June 2016 | UPDATED: 08:54 28 June 2016
A construction firm has been fined £550,000 for the "wholly preventable" deaths of a police officer and his musician partner who plunged to their deaths after falling through a roadside hoarding in Camden.
PC Gavin Brewer, 32, and his boyfriend Stuart Meads, 34, fell through hoardings and into a half-built basement apartment on Hampstead Road on October 19, 2013.
The couple had been rowing and one pushed the other against the building site perimeter hoarding which gave way and they toppled head first down an uncovered light well.
The pair plunged nearly four metres and suffered catastrophic head and neck injuries, the Old Bailey heard.
Oliver Glasgow, QC, prosecuting, said the hoarding was not of sufficient height or strength, and for at least two months there had been no cover on the light well.
Meanwhile, up to 200 children and parents walked along the road to and from a nearby school every day, he said.
The court was shown CCTV footage of Mr Brewer and Mr Meads grappling in the street before one pushes the other and they both crash through the hoarding and down the hole.
Mr Brewer’s mother Marian told the court that burying her “beautiful” and “caring” son was “a parent’s worst nightmare”.
The British Transport Police officer had his “whole life in front of him” and was studying for his sergeant’s exams after having a benign tumour removed, she said.
On the impact of his death, Mrs Brewer said: “It’s destroyed us as a family. My love, my life, my son - gone in a breath.”
Mr Brewer’s father Robin said he was “full of anger” at what happened and had been left a “broken man”.
He said: “No matter what, I will never be able to forgive you. I hope you have learned a major lesson and no other family will be put through the pain and heartache.”
Steve Meads described how his son Stuart had enjoyed some success in the music industry before meeting Gavin Brewer who had “made his life complete”.
His mother Barbara said her heart was broken and the deaths of “two lovely young men seems so unfair”.
She added: “If care had been taken and the hoarding made safe I would still have my dear boy.”
Monavon Construction Limited, which was responsible for the half-built basement flat, pleaded guilty to two counts of corporate manslaughter and a charge of failing to discharge its duty to persons other than employees in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
In mitigation, Jonathan Laidlaw QC said the owners of the small family-run company were “extremely sorry”.
In 33 years of trading, it had never before been convicted of health and safety breaches.
Sentencing, Judge Paul Worsley QC described the deaths as an “accident waiting to happen”, adding: “It was not only tragic, it was wholly preventable.”
He said: “I have seen CCTV footage of youngsters as well as more mature members of the public come perilously close to the area where the uncovered light well was positioned and the day before a youngster appears to have approached the area and looked down into the void.”
The judge said the failure to cover the hole was “unforgivable”.
Sentencing the company, which has an annual turnover of around half a million pounds, he said: “I take the view that this was such a serious breach and so potentially serious to the public leading as it led to the destruction of two young lives and effectively the families of those involved.
“This was not an isolated incident - the court must mark this by fines that I accept are very heavy.”
For each count of corporate manslaughter, Judge Worsley imposed a fine of £250,000 plus £50,000 for the additional health and safety charge to be paid in 24 months. He also awarded costs of £23,653 to be paid in six months.