Company director Michael Holland, left, and foreman Grant Oakes denied a charge each of gross negligence manslaughter (Sussex Police)

Developer, foreman jailed over death of “devoted granddad” carpenter

18 September 2017 | By GCR Staff 1 Comment

A UK property developer and a construction foreman have each been jailed for nine months for the manslaughter of a 55-year-old carpenter who died after falling nearly five metres on one of the developer’s projects in Brighton.

Company director Michael Holland, pictured left, and foreman Grant Oakes, right, denied a charge each of gross negligence manslaughter in connection with the death of carpenter David Clark, who was engaged to be married and who was described by his fiancée as a “devoted granddad”.

In September 2014 Clark fell through a void in a first-floor ceiling while working at Stanmer Park Stables in Brighton. He went into a coma, was paralysed and died a month later.

A jury found Holland, 69, and Oakes, 46, guilty following a three-week trial at Lewes Crown Court.

The pair were sentenced to nine months in prison each. Holland was also ordered to pay £35,000 in costs and Oakes £10,000.
Lewes Crown Court heard during the trial that Clark, who worked as a subcontractor for Holland’s company, was airlifted to hospital in a critical condition after falling five metres to the ground.

A month later he died at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton.

At the start of the three-week long trial, Holland, owner and sole director of Hove-based Cherrywood Investments, pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

In doing so he accepted that neglect on his part meant that persons on the site were exposed to risks to their health and safely when working at height.

Cherrywood Investments also admitted a similar offence.

Oakes was also accused of failing to take suitable measures to prevent, as far as possible, any person working on the site, falling a distance liable to cause them personal injury. He had denied the offence but was found guilty.

In a statement to Sussex Police Clark’s fiancée Beverley Clark insisted Mr Clark was “not just a statistic”.

“He was real. He was my partner, my love, my rock. He was a loving and devoted granddad. He was a caring and supportive father. He was a true friend to so many people and always put others needs and concerns before his own. Dave died too soon in what I feel were totally unnecessary and unfair circumstances. His loss will be felt forever.”

She said: “These two men had a duty of care to a man that worked for them. That man was my fiancée, that man went to work one morning and never came home again as a result of an accident that should never have occurred.”

Detective inspector Mick Jones said: “Dave Clark went to work that fateful morning in 2014 and his partner Beverley had every right to expect him to return.

“However the unsafe conditions on that building site on which numerous men were working, particularly those working at height, meant that it wasn’t to be.”

He added: “People often blame health and safety for stopping people doing everyday things but the whole reason is to prevent serious injury and death like the tragic death of Dave Clark.

“I hope this sends message that are real consequences of a blatant disregard for the well being of their workers.”

Photograph: Company director Michael Holland, left, and foreman Grant Oakes denied a charge each of gross negligence manslaughter (Sussex Police)