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Manslaughter conviction follows roofer's ladder fall

19 Apr A pair of construction company owners have been convicted of health and safety offences, including one conviction of manslaughter by gross negligence, after a worker fell to his death on a building site in Hove

Steven Wenham, 48, of Charlotte Street in Brighton, and John Nicholas Spiller, 52, of Fishersgate Close in Portslade, were found guilty of several charges at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday 7th April 7 following an investigation led by Sussex Police, with support from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

A prosecution had also been brought against two companies of which the pair are directors – Total Contractor’s Ltd and Southern Asphalt Ltd.

It follows an incident at a building site in Brunswick Street West, Hove, on Friday 27th July 2018, in which a roofer subcontracted by Southern Asphalt fell two storeys from a ladder to his death.

An inspection from the HSE found multiple safety failings, including no scaffolding or barriers to protect those working at a height.

The victim, 60-year-old Graham Tester, had been working off a ladder, secured with only two nails hammered into a timber frame on either side of it.

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Steven Wenham was charged with, and found guilty of, manslaughter by gross negligence. Both he and his company, Total Contractor’s Ltd, were also found guilty of two offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act regarding failure to properly safeguard against serious injury or death from a fall from height.

Spiller was found not guilty of manslaughter, but convicted of an offence regarding a failure to properly safeguard against serious injury of death from a fall from height. His roofing company, Southern Asphalt Ltd, had already pleaded guilty to the same offence.

Both men have been released on bail pending sentencing on 7th June.

Detective Inspector James Meanwell of Sussex Police said: “Employers owe a duty of care to their employees. Steven Wenham and John Spiller failed in that duty – the consequences of which were Graham’s tragic death and an irreparable loss to his children and grandchildren.

“It is my hope that Sussex Police’s investigation and the subsequent trial were able to answer his family’s questions and offer them some measure of comfort that justice has been done.”

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