Director of cow food firm where worker died is spared jail - after dairy farmers claimed they could go bust

Adrian Herrmann leaving Norwich Crown Court. Photo : Steve Adams

Adrian Herrmann leaving Norwich Crown Court. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

A man who accidentally crushed a worker to death was spared jail after a judge heard evidence that his imprisonment may cause a string of dairy farms to go bust.

Protein Feeds Ltd, director Adrian Herrmann leaving Norwich Crown Court. Photo ; Steve Adams

Protein Feeds Ltd, director Adrian Herrmann leaving Norwich Crown Court. Photo ; Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

Adrian Herrmann, a director of Protein Feeds, which provides food for cows, killed driver Neville Bloss when he reversed a JCB into him, Norwich Crown Court heard yesterday.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Bloss's widow Sue said her husband of 30 years was a 'happy, kind, hard-working and reliable' man who she missed 'every day'.

He gave Protein Feeds more than a decade of 'loyal service' but she felt the firm had shown the family 'no respect' since his death in 2011.

The firm admitted health and safety breaches part way through trial and a jury found Herrmann guilty of perverting the course of justice.

The 57-year-old, of Old Station Road, Halesworth had falsified documents together with a second man, who did not stand trial on medical grounds, to give a false impression to investigating authorities, the court heard.

Judge Jeremy Stuart-Smith said that unless there were 'exceptional' circumstances Herrmann could expect an immediate prison sentence.

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And after hearing live evidence from a series of dairy workers, including a man who designs diets for cows and a partner in a dairy farm business, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith saw fit to suspend the sentence.

Graham Parkins, mitigating, said Protein Feeds had £1.4m of debtors last year as it allowed struggling dairy businesses time to pay.

He told the court that if Herrmann went to prison the business would fold, liquidators would then pursue the debtors of Protein Feeds, causing dairy farms to fold and causing job losses.

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith told Herrmann: 'You have acted with extreme commercial generosity to those in trouble by putting their welfare before your own commercial requirements.'

Protein Feeds, based in Darsham, Suffolk, was 'vital' for the survival of other businesses, and if it were to fold the 'ripples would go out from the disaster', and there was no 'reason in justice' for its 'destruction'.

Herrmann was handed a 12-month jail term suspended for two years, fined £75,000, £5,600 costs and given a curfew from 8.30pm to 6.30am for the duration of the suspended sentence.

Herrmann's company Protein Feeds was also fined £75,000 and made to pay £37,066 costs to the Health and Safety Executive.

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said that while he hoped this delivered a 'shattering blow'.

A civil claim is under way against the firm.

Mrs Bloss said that no sentence would bring her husband back and she was satisfied the judge's decision.