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.”