Automated gate installer jailed and company fined £12,000 in landmark Crown Court ruling

The installer responsible for the automated iron gate which fell on 56 year-old grandmother Jill Lunn at her home in Norwich back in 2013 has been given a 42-month prison sentence by presiding Judge Stephen Holt at Norwich Crown Court. The Court had been advised by prosecutor Andrew Jackson that the accident was “a wholly preventable tragedy” and that the installer’s actions amounted to manslaughter by gross negligence.

The gate, which weighed around a third of a tonne, was installed in March 2013, but without any stopping devices to prevent it from falling if it was operated manually. Members of the Jury heard that Mrs Lunn had pulled into the drive, with her grandchild in the car, and tried to close the gate using the remote control. When it wouldn’t work, Lunn tried to shut the gate manually and it fell directly on top of her and crushed her to death.

The prosecution advised that the tragedy could easily have been prevented by means of a simple stopping device being added either to the gate or to the track upon which the gate ran.

In addition to delivering the prison sentence to Robert Churchyard, the installer, the company for whom Churchyard worked – namely Automated Garage Doors and Gates Ltd – was also fined £12,000 after admitting three counts of failing to comply with a requirement under the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations.

At a separate trial, Churchyard was also convicted of committing an offence under the Heath and Safety at Work Act.

Commenting on the Norwich Crown Court ruling, Gate Safe founder Richard Jackson told Risk UK: “This is a landmark ruling and sends out a clear message to the installer community, highlighting as it does the overriding importance of understanding what constitutes a safe and legal automated gate installation. This ruling possibly sets a precedent for all installers to be held individually accountable for their actions.”

Jackson added: “We urge all professionals working in the automated and manual gate sector to ensure they’ve undergone the relevant training. First and foremost this is about avoiding any further tragedies occurring, but it’s also concerned with safeguarding their reputation and businesses from the serious financial and legal repercussions that can ensue in the wake of an accident.”

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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