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Manslaughter builder and contractor jailed

Two men have today been jailed after a 15-year-old labourer was crushed to death by a wall in Hadley Wood. Builder Colin Holtom and contractor Darren Fowler had previously been convicted at the Old Bailey of offences following the death of Adam Gosling.

Holtom, 64, of Meadow Way, Latchingdon, near Chelmsford, Essex, was jailed for three years after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

Fowler, 47, of Parkland Avenue, Upminster, had admitted working while disqualified from being a company manager and failure to discharge a duty imposed by Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 - contrary to Sect 33 (1a) of the said Act. Today he was jailed for 12 months for working while disqualified.

There was no separate penalty for the health and safety matters. Police were called at 11.46 on April 23, 2007, to reports of a wall collapsing at a private address in Broadgates Avenue, Hadley Wood. Adam, who had been working as a casual labourer, was trapped underneath the wall, which was in the process of being demolished.

Police, paramedics, HEMS air ambulance and the London Fire Brigade attended the scene. The emergency services managed to free Adam but he was confirmed dead at the scene. A post-mortem examination held at Hornsey mortuary on Wednesday 25 April, 2007, gave cause of death as head injuries and a fractured skull.

Enquiries into the incident were led by the Homicide and Serious Crime Command based at Hendon in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive. The court heard that Adam had been doing some casual work for Colin Holtom, who traded as Maldon Groundworks. Holtom was sub-contracted to Romford-based Soneca Systems Ltd to carry out a large garden landscaping and refurbishment project at the address in Broadgates Avenue. The project manager for the site was Darren Fowler.

The work centred around an outdoor swimming pool. The existing pool-house had been demolished exposing a 22-foot long wall which was seven-foot high and had a large crack running almost down its centre. The wall was deemed unsafe and required demolition. On 23 April, 2007, Adam and his older brother were both working at the site. After completing some other work, Holtom told them they would now be demolishing the wall. There was no proper discussion orinstruction on how the wall was to be removed before work started and Adam and his brother began demolition with no supervision.

The wall suddenly began to lean in the direction of a neighbour’s garden. Adam went to speak to Holtom who apparently told them to get into the neighbour’s garden and push the wall back. As Adam did so, the wall fell towards him. His brother shouted for him to move out of the way but the wall fell, hitting a concrete garage. He called out again to Adam but there was no response. Adam had suffered a major head injury after becoming trapped against the garage.

After further enquiries Holtom was charged on 30 April, 2008 and Fowler on 1 May, 2008. Detective Inspector Pete Basnett, of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said:

“This has been a protracted and complex investigation lasting more than two years and we’re pleased with today’s convictions which should serve as a clear warning that health and safety laws are there for a reason and ignoring them can have tragic consequences.

“Holtom left two inexperienced young workers working at a wall already deemed to be dangerous without supervising them or giving proper instructions on how the work was to be carried out. Even when Adam approached him halfway through the demolition to seek advice as the wall was beginning to move, Holtom still took no action and didn’t even go to inspect the danger area.

“While Fowler was not on site he had known as early as April 18 that the wall was dangerous as proved by an email he sent to his client.

What makes this case particularly tragic is that Adam’s brother witnessed his death first-hand and my thoughts go out to him and the est of his family who have been left devastated by what happened.”

Simon Hester, the investigating inspector from the Health and Safety Executive said:

“The management and set-up of this small construction project was appaling. Adam Gosling should never have been there at all as 15 year olds have been banned from working on construction sites since 1920.

“There was a complete disregard for basic health and safety requirements - inadequate personal protective equipment, no risk assessments, no training and minimal supervision. There were no welfare facilities on site and the workers were not even covered by Employees Liability Insurance.

“We know there are many other sites with serious shortcomings but it is the duty of the contactors and employers to ensure that basic health and safety requirements are followed. The HSE will do all we can to ensure tragedies like this are avoided - we rely heavily on people contacting us with concerns and worries so that we can intervene before any more workers are killed in such tragic circumstances.”

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