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Judge Suspends Sentence in Fall Case

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

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A U.K. court has suspended the 18-month prison sentence of a roofer after one of his employees fell 30 feet to his death in May 2014.

Michael Tuner, 49, of Colchester, Essex, pleaded guilty to gross negligent manslaughter, according to reports. He was sentenced Friday (Nov. 20) at Inner London Crown Court.

The judge accepted the “depth of Turner’s remorse and suspended his sentence for two years after saying he felt an immediate prison sentence was ‘not appropriate’ in this case,” according to a report on the case in the East Anglian Daily Times.

Robert Bird
Cambridge News

Robert Bird, 57, was working for MT Construction when he fell 30 feet to his death in May 2014. His employer, Michael Turner, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison in the case.

Turner was also ordered to complete 240 hours of unpaid work, reports note.

The Fatal Fall

The fall victim, Robert Bird, 57, also of Colchester, had been working on a barn near Newmarket May 20, 2014, when he fell through the roof to his death.

Bird and Turner had reportedly been friends for 15 years; Bird worked for Turner’s company MT Construction.

Following the incident, the Cambridgeshire police department and the U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive launched an investigation, according to reports.

Inner London Crown Court
Public domain via

While the court imposed an 18-month-long prison sentence, it was moved by the contractor's remorse, delaying the sentence for two years.

During the probe, it was discovered that a few days before the incident, witnesses reported a “near miss” on the roof. Turner himself was said to have had stepped on a roofing panel, heard a loud noise and moved away to see the panel fall to the ground, according to reports.

‘Woefully Inadequate’

Citing a report by the HSE, Cambridge News reported that “MT Construction developed a system of work which relied on using new roof sheets as a safe working platform but this was fundamentally flawed in that the unsafe practice of 'walking the bolts' was routinely adopted while laying out and attaching the fixing bars.”

The report went on to say that a “competent” roofing contractor would not have performed the job in this manner and would not have placed his workers at such risk.

The standard was “woefully inadequate,” the report said. A copy of the HSE document was not immediately available for review Tuesday (Nov. 23).

Further, “[a]dequate precautions were not taken in this case, such as netting and edge protection, which has led to the dreadful tragedy of Mr. Bird falling 30 feet to his death,” Linda Christian-Booth, of HSE told the news outlet.


Tagged categories: Enforcement; Ethics; Europe; Fall protection; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Roofing contractors

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