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Judge slams ‘lack of humility’ sentencing employer of teenager who died in tractor crash

The employer of a teenager who died when his tractor was crushed almost flat in a crash has been ord..

By admin , in Cambridge , at April 18, 2018

The employer of a teenager who died when his tractor was crushed almost flat in a crash has been ordered to pay more than £450,000 by the court after being found guilty of health and safety breaches.

Harry Christian-Allan, who worked for G W Topham and Son, was driving a tractor hitched to a trailer with defective brakes when he crashed after being seen losing control on a downhill section of the A1 near Alconbury.

The 19-year-old was seriously injured in the accident and later died at Addenbrooke's on August 1, 2014.

In a subsequent trial brought by the Health and Safety Executive, the St Neots-based farming company was found guilty of failing to maintain its road equipment and ensure the health and safety of its employees.

Today (April 17), during sentencing, Judge Stuart Bridge slammed the company's lack of remorse and humility during proceedings, where Harry's family were in attendance.

"The lack of humility has been quite staggering," said Judge Bridge. "Such as today neither partner is in court and sentence is being passed with no-one other than its counsel and solicitor in attendance.

"Despite the presence of Harry's family, there has been no protestation of actual remorse."

Cambridge Crown Court heard how the St Neots-based agricultural business, which denied culpability for Harry's death, put too much responsibility on staff members to find safety defects.

Judge Bridge told the court he is convinced the defective brakes of the trailer were a significant cause of the collision of Harry's death.

The tractor the teenager was driving had been hitched to a trailer carrying 25,000kg of grain, four times the weight of the tractor.

Judge Bridge said that the brakes would have been inadequate to stop the combined weight of the vehicles and load at speed.

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A daily maintenance regime carried out by the company saw each worker given the task of performing a brake test in the yard of the farm.

This involved driving through the yard with a trailer attached at 10mph – and executing an emergency stop.

If any defects were detected, staff were told to tell the maintenance workers.

This method was deemed inadequate by witnesses who gave evidence during the trial in February, as the yard was flat and the trailers were not carrying anything – meaning it would have been unlikely that anyone would have spotted the brake defects.

(Image: Jane Gurney)

Harry, who was studying law and was a seasonal worker, had experience of driving a tractor from a young age.

The court heard a statement from GW Topham and Son owner William Topham, who said: "We need more technically minded youngsters. We don't take green horns who have no experience of machinery and roadwork."

Judge Bridge said the company sought to "alleviate" its training responsibilities by getting younger, more inexperienced workers who were not capable of using machinery during the harvest.

He added that he felt this was a form of "cost-cutting" in its human resources – as it meant that the company didn't have to use any many maintenance workers.

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Judge Bridge said the maintenance staff area was "critically under-resourced".

Judge Bridge imposed a fine of £400,000 to the company and ordered it to pay £67,000 worth of prosecution costs.

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