Published: 11:40, 24 January 2019
| Updated: 11:44, 24 January 2019
A company has been hit with a £1 million fine over the death of a dustman five years ago.
John Head was killed after being run over by a dustcart at the company’s recycling depot in Ross Way, Folkestone.
But a judge has rejected a claim that the 60 year old’s tragic killing was by the hands of a work pal, Peter Hudson.
Yesterday a jury found the company Veolia ES (Uk) guilty of failing to ensure the safety of Mr Head, who was working at the site.
During the trial at Canterbury Crown Court Mr Hudson was cross-examined about an allegation that he had admitted “nudging” Mr Head, who then fell under the wheels of a truck in October 2013.
Now Judge Simon James has rejected the “confession” claim as “unworthy of belief”.
He added: “I prefer the straightforward and in all but one minor degree, consistent account of Mr Hudson.
“Having listened to the evidence, I find myself forced to the conclusion there is no proper evidential foundation for a conclusion that Mr Hudson contributed to Mr Head’s death in any other way than failing to see him before impact.
“In my judgement, if anything along the lines that were suggested had occurred it is highly unlikely that it would not have been seen by others.”
But the judge said the “exact mechanism” of how Mr Head fell under the wheels of a vehicle “remain unclear”.
He added that there was no “obvious reason” for Mr Head to have been in the vicinity of a reversing truck but none of his colleagues who saw him walking in the busy site “expressed shock or any particular concern” .
Judge James said that after the tragedy, Health and Safety Officials identified a number of potential changes to the safety system of work – which were then “implemented quickly” by Veolia.
He added: “Whilst we will never know for certain whether the implementation of a different system would have saved Mr Head...I feel able to reach the conclusion that had (Veolia) taken the practicable steps the chances would have been significantly reduced.”
He fined Veolia £1 million and £130,000 prosecution costs.
Judge James then praised the “quiet dignity” shown by Mr Heads’ family and friends during the three week trial.
He added: “I am acutely aware that nothing I can say or do can turn back the clock, nor am I in a position to impose the sort of sentence which can properly reflect the pain and anguish that Mr Head’s untimely death has caused to those who knew and loved him.”