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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 March 2007, 16:47 GMT
Gamekeeper death trustees fined
Douglas Armstrong
Mr Armstrong died in an accident on the estate in 2004
The trustees of a Borders country estate have been fined 3,000 after admitting a health and safety breach in connection with a gamekeeper's death.

Douglas Armstrong, 53, died in 2004 after his quad bike crashed on the Philiphaugh Estate near Selkirk.

It took 52 hours before he was reported missing and subsequently found dead.

Trustees admitted failing to provide a means of communication or carrying out a risk assessment for a lone worker to report in at the end of a shift.

Mobile phone

The court was told that Mr Armstrong managed to travel more than 200 metres from the scene of the accident on 18 October 2004.

His body was not found until 20 October shortly after the alarm was raised and the route Mr Armstrong took to feed pheasants was checked.

Procurator Fiscal Graham Fraser admitted it was impossible to tell whether he would have been able to use a mobile phone or if he could have been saved if the alarm had been raised earlier.

Mike Wade, defending, said the death had resulted from an unfortunate combination of circumstances.

Mr Armstrong had been covering the pheasant beat for the head gamekeeper who had gone into hospital a few days earlier.

Hopefully other employers will learn from this case and ensure all precautions are taken to cope with the hazards that lone workers are exposed to
Lawrence Murray
Health and Safety Executive

Mr Wade added that many rural workers felt being given a mobile telephone was an invasion of their privacy.

He added that it was the first time a trust had been prosecuted in Scotland under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

It was also the first time an agricultural concern had been prosecuted in respect of lone workers.

Sheriff Wendy Sheehan said she would have imposed a fine of 4,000 but took into account the guilty plea before trial and restricted it to 3,000.

Health and Safety Executive investigating officer Lawrence Murray said the decision sent out an important message.

"Hopefully other employers will learn from this case and ensure all precautions are taken to cope with the hazards that lone workers are exposed to," he said.

"They need a system in place for lone workers keeping in touch with people and also a means of communication to contact the emergency services if need be."

'Deeply missed'

A Philiphaugh Trust spokesman said Mr Armstrong was "highly regarded" and a "much missed member of the Philiphaugh community".

Mr Armstrong's mother and his sister Karen released a statement after the case.

"It has been a long time and we want to thank everyone for their help and support over the past two and a half years," it said.

"Douglas is deeply missed and it is just a tragic waste of life."

The Crown Office is still to decide whether to hold a fatal accident inquiry into Mr Armstrong's death.

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