Oldbury recycling firm fined £2 million for manslaughter of father who was killed on shift

A Black Country recycling firm has been fined £2 million pound for the corporate manslaughter of one of its employees.

Stuart Towns died in 2017
Stuart Towns died in 2017

Shocking safety oversights led to Stuart Towns, a 34-year-old father of one, dying after being struck from above while sorting metal at Alutrade Ltd site in Tat Bank Lane, Oldbury, in July 2017.

The firm had previously been warned about the dangers of employees jumping in and out of a metal sorting machine.

Company directors Malcolm George and Kevin Pugh and health and safety manager Mark Redfern all escaped a custodial sentenced and were fined after admitting health and safety failures on the basis of neglect.

Justice Martin Spencer told the family of Mr Towns at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Friday: "You have my deepest sympathy, Stuart was obviously a man deeply loved. No sentence that I might have imposed today could have adequately reflected that loss.

"The three gentlemen in the dock did not cause Stuart's death, the fault lies squarely with the company but it is not possible for me to send a company to prison."

Alutrade has been fined £2 million

He added: "I hope these proceedings have helped understand what happened and given you some closure. What is clear is is the transformation of the safety procedures at the company and no-one has since been injured so

"Stuart gave his life for others."

Alutrade director Malcolm George will have to pay £21,109 after the judge said he showed a flagrant disregard for safety procedures but took into account how much the death had affected him.

Kevin Pugh was "the least culpable" and will have to pay £9,702 while health and safety boss Mark Redfern will have to pay £7,243.

George, 55, the managing director, of Earls Common Road, Worcestershire; Pugh, 46, the production director of Dunchurch Crescent, Sutton Coldfield, and Redfern, 61, of Alwin Road, Rowley Regis, all walked free from the dock.

Mr Towns was from Oldbury and previously went to Langley High School. His brother, Ian Towns, described him as "kind-hearted, caring and generous".

He added: "There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of him.

"It is very painful and breaks my heart that Stuart is no longer with us. He will never be replaced and he was one of a kind."

A statement from Alutrade said: "We want to again express our deep remorse at the death of Stuart Towns, a valued and much liked employee.

"Nothing can bring Stuart back but we trust that these proceedings will have provided his loved ones with some answers.

"We hope that they can draw some comfort from the fact that, as remarked upon by the sentencing judge, the Honourable Mr Justice Martin Spencer, lessons have been learnt and the company has subsequently transformed its approach to managing and enforcing health and safety on site.

"We accept the company is responsible for Stuart’s manslaughter by virtue of gross negligence. We fell short of the required standard by allowing him to work in the immediate vicinity of machinery known as the ‘Biffa Line’ when it was unguarded by lockable gates.

"It was, though, acknowledged by the judge that before this tragic accident the Company had clearly defined health and safety policies and procedures in place which profiled risks. It had had a good health and safety record, but sadly as far as the Biffa Line was concerned, the company had not adhered to its policies and procedures in practice.

"The company took swift action to remedy the deficiencies highlighted by the accident and the judge gave credit for this in his sentencing remarks.

"The directors are passionate in their commitment to ensuring that the company’s premises at Oldbury will be the safest metal recycling site in Europe and they believe that they are close to reaching this goal."

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