Norfolk man jailed following death of skip hire firm worker
PUBLISHED: 14:21 17 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:35 17 May 2019
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
A businessman has been jailed for 12 months following the death of a skip hire firm worker who was suffocated when his clothing became caught in machinery.
James Criddle, 29, from Watton, was working at Baldwin Skip Hire in Besthorpe on May 15, 2017, when an accident happened involving waste-screening machinery which had been bought for £18,000 on eBay, but was not fitted with safety guards.
Robert Baldwin, 48, of Silver Street, Besthorpe, appeared at Norwich Crown Court to be sentenced today (Friday, May 17) having been found guilty of an offence of consenting or conniving in the commission of an offence or neglect to which that offence was attributable.
The conviction came after the jury had taken three-and-a-quarter hours to find him not guilty of manslaughter, after a trial in March.
Sentencing Baldwin to a year in prison, judge Alice Robinson said in her view "this machine was a fatal accident waiting to happen".
She said Baldwin had run the risk of buying a "less safe machine", which was "manifestly unsafe", in order "to save money".
The company, Baldwin Skip Hire, has already pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety duties to an employee in a separate charge.
It was fined £75, 000 by judge Robinson.
Before Baldwin was sentenced the court heard victim impact statements from Mr Criddle's partner Holly Eagling, who is mother to their daughter Lexi, and his mother Naomi.
Matthew Gowen, for Baldwin, said the evidence from his client throughout was that he had realised there were holes cut in the side although he had not made a link between them and any deficiency in safety.
He said perhaps he should have but Mr Gowen insisted there had not been a deliberate attempt to save money at the expense of safety.
He said that neither Baldwin nor the company were responsible for "putting the machine in the state that it was in" although he does accept they did nothing to make it better.
Mr Gowen said at the time of Mr Criddle's death the company had been starting the process of improving health and safety at work.
Baldwin has since completed programmes, while there are now processes in place at work.
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During the trial, which started last week, the jury had heard how Gediminas Savickas, a former excavator driver at Baldwin
Skip Hire, had made a desperate effort to free Mr Criddle on the day he died after he became trapped in a screener machine.
He told the court how he got a knife out of Mr Criddle's pocket to try and cut away his clothing but could not because it was "really tight".
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector said it was likely Mr Criddle was "trying to unblock the machine with a shovel".
The machine was not fitted with safety guards but should have been, the inspector said.
He said the site of the accident posed a "serious risk of entanglement".
Following Mr Criddle's death, friends said he was a kind, loving man, who cared for his girlfriend Holly Eagling, and young daughter, Lexi.
In a statement, Mr Criddle's family said: "Jimmy (James) was one of life's decent people. He was kind, caring, loving and would help anyone. He was a son to Naomi, loving partner to Holly, brother to Alan and father to his daughter Lexi.
"On the 15th May 2017 his life was brought to a premature, shocking and sudden end - and that is so unfair. It was a death that shouldn't have happened and could so easily have been prevented.
"We hope that lessons will be learned to ensure such a terrible tragedy never happens again. Jimmy will be desperately missed by all his family and friends. No sentence today can bring him back.
"We, as a family, would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have stood by and supported us throughout. That includes the staff from Norfolk Police and our legal teams.
"For almost two years, our lives and grief have been on hold. We will never come to terms with our devastating loss and sitting through the recent trial has re-opened old wounds.
"We would please ask again that we are left in peace to grieve and, if possible, attempt to get back to some sort of normality."
Speaking after the case, T/Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Chapman, from the Major Investigation Team, said: "I cannot over emphasise the importance of having the appropriate safe systems of work in place and that machinery is safe to use.
"In this case, the machine used was purchased by Baldwin and put into use in an unsafe condition including missing guards resulting in the tragic consequences we have seen.
"This has been devastating for the family and friends of James and my thoughts continue to be with them in what has been such a difficult time."