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Dead man should not have been in pit, court hears

An expert witness in the Cotswold Geotechnical corporate manslaughter case has said that the man who died should not have been in the unsupported pit when it collapsed on him.

Earth Science Partnership director John Campbell told the jury at Winchester Crown Court that British standards BS5930 stated that workers should not enter unsupported trial pits deeper than 1.2m. 

Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings is charged with the corporate manslaughter of Alexander Wright, who died when a 3.84m deep unsupported pit it caved in at a development site in Brimscombe Lane, near Stroud, Gloucestershire, in September 2008.

Under questioning from Richard Lissack QC, defending, as to whether the decision to enter a pit “should never be the subject of professional opinion”, Campbell said pits of greater than 1.2m depth should never be entered into, and that entry into pits smaller than this should only be made by people with five or six years experience, and with supervision. Asked by Lissack if “there comes a point when they are able to make that judgement”, Campbell replied, “Yes, that’s true.”

In his evidence, Campbell told the court that it was “not surprising” to find an employee of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings being in a pit which they shouldn’t have been, based on “how Cotswold Geotechnical conducted their business”.

However, asked by Lissack to “show me where there’s a single reference of anyone entering a trial pit of any depth without a digger driver there” for supervision, Campbell said: “I can’t think of one off the top of my head.” Lissack replied: “There isn’t one”.

Under questioning from Mark Ellison QC, prosecuting, Campbell said “it seems that he [Wright] pressured into entering the trial pit to complete the work”.

CGH denies that it unlawfully killed 27 year old Wright, who died from asphyxia as he was buried by the soil. The trial continues in front of Judge Justice Field, and Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings’ defence is scheduled to call its witnesses today.

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