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Suspended sentence for contractor over botched demolition job

A contractor employed to demolish a building in Kent has been sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for two years after the structure collapsed. The client for the work has been fined £160,000.

Canterbury Crown Court was told that the building on High Street in Ramsgate was owned by Panther AL (PAL), a subsidiary of property investment company Panther Securities. PAL contracted Martin Elmes to undertake the demolition work but did not confirm that he was suitable and competent to complete the task. 

According to Kent Online, PAL had planned to knock down several houses and a textile printing factory to make way for the building of 20 new flats. The company proceeded with the work despite not having received planning permission from Thanet District Council.  

Neither PAL nor Elmes had applied for a road closure. According to reports, members of the public ran to safety and shops were evacuated as debris started falling during the botched demolition.  

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the collapse, which occurred on 6 November 2013, found that Elmes had failed to properly plan the work and then carried out unsafe demolition work.

Panther AL pleaded guilty to breaching reg 4(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 to failing to ensure the contractor was competent. It was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,129. 

Martin Elmes pleaded guilty to breaching reg 25(1) of the same regulations.

HSE inspector Andrew Cousins said after the hearing on 6 June: “Lives were put at risk when this structure uncontrollably collapsed […] The job could have been safely carried out by simply undertaking the demolition behind a substantial hoarding.”


Keeley Downey is acting deputy editor of IOSH Magazine. She is a former editor of Biofuels International, Bioenergy Insight and Tank Cleaning Magazine

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