Published: 12:00, 16 October 2015
| Updated: 12:32, 16 October 2015
A pensioner who fitted an “unfit for purpose” gas boiler in a bathroom which led to the tragic death of a friend has been spared an immediate jail sentence.
Terry Blackwell was cleared of gross negligence manslaughter after Linda Frost died from carbon monoxide poisoning while taking a shower at her chalet in Leysdown, Sheppey.
He was convicted of two offences of contravening Health and Safety regulations.
He had admitted a third similar charge involving carrying out the work when not qualified to do so.
Blackwell was sentenced to six months' imprisonment suspended for a year.
The maximum sentence for the offences is two years' imprisonment or an unlimited fine.
A judge told the 64-year-old: “I take the view there needs to be in the community a sense you are going to put something back for that which you have done.
“The right and proper way of reflecting that is to say there must be 180 hours unpaid work.”
He was also ordered to pay £1,000 court costs.
Judge Philip Statman said: “The aggravating feature in relation to the counts the jury found you guilty of is the death of Linda Frost.
"For her death is the consequence of your breaking Health and Safety regulations, and there is always public disquiet at the loss of life.
“I have seen just how close the community in Leysdown is. It represents all that is good in the sense of community spirit in this county.”
It was revealed that there had been a decision not to prosecute Blackwell but the case was reviewed after an appeal by the victim’s family.
The judge said earlier it was clear anyone who read the boiler manual would have appreciated there was no way it should have been fitted in the bathroom.
“The manual itself is clear,” he said. “The hazards are set out on the first page. He said he read the manual.”
He added: “It had tragic consequences. I have to remind myself I have to be faithful to the jury’s verdict.
“There is a serious breach of regulations and there has to be a clear message to the community. I have no doubt in saying it passes the custody threshold.”
“There must have been an obvious and serious risk of death" - Phil Bennetts QC
Blackwell claimed he had warned Mrs Frost not to use the boiler until he had fixed a gas leak in it.
She collapsed while taking a shower at Coronation Chalet Park in Coronation Drive on the morning of April 13 last year and was found unconscious by Blackwell’s wife Mary.
The 61-year-old, from Stonewood, Bean, was taken to hospital but died soon afterwards.
Maidstone Crown Court heard Mrs Frost bought the two-bedroom bungalow with her sister and became friends with Blackwell and his wife.
After her collapse an ambulance was called and Mrs Blackwell and neighbours gave Mrs Frost CPR until paramedics arrived.
She was taken to Medway Hospital at about 9.15am. She was pronounced dead at 12.50pm.
The cause of death was hypoxic brain injury due to inhalation of carbon monoxide.
Blackwell, of Hartland Forest, Woolsery, Devon, bought the “6L portable gas LPG propane tankless hot water boiler” on eBay.
Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC said Blackwell owed Mrs Frost a duty of care. He was not qualified or registered to install such an appliance.
“You may consider Terry Blackwell’s conduct is capable of being described as reprehensible,” he told the jury. “There must have been an obvious and serious risk of death.”
Judge Statman told him “You had never fitted a gas boiler in a bathroom before. You had no training in the fitting of gas appliances.
“The two boilers we have heard about in the course of this case were not fit for purpose. They were natural gas boilers. Each boiler had a warning sticker on its side which you told the jury you didn’t see.”