Pair jailed after death of father-of-five on East Northants building site

Shane Wilkinson
Shane Wilkinson

Two men have been sentenced to a total of five years following the death of a father-of-five at a building site nearly three years ago.

Andrew Winterton and Dean Wortley appeared at Northampton Crown Court on Friday following a nine-week trial which ended earlier this month.

Shane Wilkinson, 33, formerly of Victory Gardens, Crowlands, Peterborough, was employed as a grounds worker at the Conquest Homes building site in Collyweston when he died on September 4, 2014.

During the trial, the court heard how Mr Wilkinson had been standing next to a deep trench that had been incorrectly excavated by trench digger-driver Wortley.

When an unsecured trench wall collapsed, Mr Wilkinson was completely buried underneath the rubble.

Despite the best efforts of fellow workers, he was pronounced dead at the scene after his body was recovered.

Site manager and director of Conquest Homes, Winterton 52, of High Street, Collyweston, was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter – the first case to be successfully tried in the county.

On Friday he was sentenced to four years in jail. He will spend two in custody and two on licence. He was also ordered to pay costs of £90,500.

Wortley, 48, of Market Deeping, Lincolnshire, who traded as Clearview Demolition, was convicted of a failure as a self-employed person to discharge his duty to ensure the health and safety of persons not in his employment, contrary to section 33(1a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

He was also found guilty of failing to take all practicable steps to prevent danger, contrary to Regulation 31 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

He was given a 12-month sentence and will spend six months in custody and six months on licence. He was ordered to pay £20,000 towards costs.

Both men were convicted following a joint investigation by Northamptonshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive.

During the trial, the court heard evidence which showed the sides of the trench had not been properly or adequately secured and that Wortley and Winterton had ignored basic safety measures resulting in convictions against both men for significant and serious breaches of health and safety legislation.

Speaking after Friday’s sentence, senior investigating officer, Det Supt Steve Woliter from Northamptonshire Police said: “As a single parent of five young children Shane Wilkinson had only been working on the Collyweston construction site for a couple of days during the early part of September 2014 because he needed money to buy school shoes for his children.

“His death was an avoidable and terrible loss of life due to the gross negligence of Winterton and the dangerous environment created by both him and Wortley.

“Shane’s death could easily have been avoided if Winterton and Wortley had shown any regard for basic safety measures on the site.

“No sentence imposed will ever turn back time for Shane or his family, however I do hope this sentence sends out a clear message to others that adequate safeguards must be put in place to prevent people from harm.

“This is the first case of gross negligence manslaughter to have been successfully tried in Northamptonshire so my extended thanks go to the tenacity of the overall prosecution team since 2014.”