Gross Negligence Manslaughter Conviction for Director Upheld by Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal has upheld the conviction of the director of a housebuilding company for gross negligence manslaughter over the death of a worker at a building site in September 2014.

Andrew Winterton, 52, director of Conquest Homes and also the construction site manager, had been found guilty gross negligence manslaughter in June 2017 after a nine week trial at Northampton Crown Court.

An unshored trench excavated for laying drainage pipes had collapsed on groundworker Shane Wilkinson at a site in Collyweston, Lincolnshire on 4 September 2014.

Wilkinson was standing in or at the edge of the trench when it collapsed, burying him in earth and rubble and causing a fatal skull fracture.

Winterton was sentenced to four years in prison, concurrent with a 12 month sentence for three breaches of Section 7 and Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. He also had to pay £20,000 towards the costs of the prosecution.

His legal team advanced six grounds for an appeal that it hoped would overturn the conviction, of which the Court of Appeal judges considered only one.

This was that the original trial judge had “erred in law in directing the jury that they were entitled to consider what the appellant [Winterton] ought to have known about the way in which the trenches were being dug on site at the time of any alleged breach”.

But, dismissing the challenge, Lady Justice Macur said: “We are in no doubt that the judge was right to leave this case to the jury.

“There was evidence from which the jury could conclude that he was actually aware of the method of excavation and that it was dangerous and there was a serious risk of death.”

Photographic evidence seen by the jury “clearly demonstrated the dangerous workmanship that posed a real and significant risk of death,” she added.