Director cleared of manslaughter after Fishermen’s Friend’s deaths

December 2016

Live events sector


The director of a door manufacturing company has been cleared of manslaughter resulting from the deaths of Fisherman’s Friends singer Trevor Grills and tour manager Paul McMullen at Guildford’s G Live venue in February 2013.
Grills, 54, and McMullen, 44, were killed after a two-tonne steel door, which allowed backstage access from the outside, collapsed on them.Grills suffered critical injuries after being hit by the falling metal door at  and  McMullen, 44, from Disley in Cheshire, died at the incident. Officers said Mr McMullen suffered serious injuries to his legs and died at the scene. Police were called to the London Road venue just after 11:45 GMT on February 9th after a report that two men were trapped under a metal door in a loading bay. The 10-piece band had been due to perform at the venue later that day. In October 2016 the jury in the trial visited the venue.
On the opening day of the trial, the jury was told doors manufactured by Mr David Naylor’s company had failed previously. Proesecutor Zoe Johnson QC said: “The prosecution alleges that the failure to have an anti-drop safeguard coupled with other evidence of earlier door collapses and this defendant’s rather casual approach to safety means that his conduct is so bad as to amount to the offence of gross negligence manslaughter.” She told the court that the door collapsed “because two drive chains, linking the motor and gearbox to a drive shaft, failed and the failure of the drive chains disconnected the motor from the drive shaft”.

The chains failed after a “misalignment of the drive sprockets” had caused wear over time, she added. For the defence Adrian Darbishire QC said Mr Naylor was “a man of integrity” who “had faith” in the doors he sold, believing they were a “safe design”. He told Guildford Crown Court that concerns raised by a customer in Bournemouth were “not ignored”.
David Naylor, 57, of Bridgnorth, was found not guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence following a trial at Guildford Crown Court. However his firm, Express Hi-Fold Doors Ltd, was fined £30,000 for breaching general duty regarding articles and substances for use at work.
Judge Phillippa Whipple noted “I have been shown certain financial information by the company. I am told that it is no longer trading, having ceased its operations in 2015 or earlier in 2016″ and “Its unaudited financial statements showed it had a turnover in 2015 of £11,000 and had a small operating profit” and “Although the turnover in preceding years had been higher, It had in fact made pre-tax losses in both years.” The 2015 statements showed that Mr Naylor received no remuneration at all in 2014 or 2015, and that he had a director’s loan outstanding. The Judge added “It is agreed that there are no aggravating factors, and i should take into account that the company has no previous convictions.”
The BBC reports that in her sentencing, Judge Whipple said there was no “deliberate disregard for the law” but the company “fell far short of the appropriate health and safety standard” saying: “The most notable was the failure to put in place chain and cable sensors. Although the company had taken expert advice on health and safety aspects of the door in 1998, suggestions that the door should be re-examined were not followed up.” The Judge noted “There had been four previous incidents. Each of them could certainly be explained by local factors causing the particular problem on the particular door, and the company did make some modest modifications to the design in light of at least two of these previous incidents” and “There was an obvious risk of death or serious injury if the door was allowed to fall. The likelihood was, I am willing to accept, not high.” 

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