Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Roof boss jailed for death plunge

Darren Hoofe [pic: Sussex Police]
The judge said Darren Hoofe had a bright future ahead of him

A roofing firm boss has been jailed for 12 months for manslaughter due to gross negligence after a 20-year-old employee fell 20ft (6m) through a skylight.

Colin Cooper, 48, and his company IC Roofing Ltd were convicted over the death of Darren Hoofe in 2005.

Mr Hoofe was carrying out repairs at the Bellbrook Industrial Estate, Uckfield, East Sussex, when he fell.

At Hove Crown Court Judge Anthony Scott-Gall described it as a "wholly avoidable and preventable accident".

Cooper was also disqualified from being a company director for three years in recognition of his earlier guilty plea to offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

IC Roofing Ltd, an industrial roofing and sheet metal contractors based in Hailsham, was fined 10,000 and ordered to pay 20,000 towards the costs of the trial.

Untrained and unsupervised

During the 13-day hearing, the court heard Mr Hoofe did not have a harness and there was no safety net.

He died in hospital a day after falling through the skylight onto a concrete factory floor on 29 November 2005.

The judge said Mr Heofe was "wholly untrained to work at height," not supervised at the "critical time", and "provided with inadequate and insufficient materials to do the work safely".

Judge Scott-Gall said it was "by good fortune and not good management by the company that such an accident had not happened before".

He also said Cooper's health and safety practices "were more to impress potential contractors than for the safety of employees".

Describing Mr Hoofe as "well-liked," Judge Scott-Gall said that he "had a bright future ahead of him until he fell victim to what was a wholly avoidable and preventable accident".

In mitigation, defence counsel Richard Body said that Cooper had become so "paranoid" after the accident that his company was now "one of the safest industrial roofing companies operating in the area".

Speaking after the sentencing, Dave Rothery, the region's HSE principle inspector, said he hoped the case would make other businesses "realise that breaches of Health and Safety legislation not only put the lives of workers at risk, but have serious consequences in law."

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