Pump Court Chambers

Tree-felling incident leaves worker in wheelchair

News 29th June 2015

In June Richard Tutt prosecuted a Health and Safety case at the Crown Court in Amersham. Defending were Ronald Walker QC, Christopher Paxton and Philip Stott.

The defendants were a company, Alpha Schools Ltd, that runs four private schools, and one of its caretakers, Paolo Mule. The company was developing a site to which it proposed to move one of its schools. As part of this process it was necessary for a large mature sycamore tree to be felled. The company engaged Mr Mule and his father, Calogero Mule, to undertake that task, neither of whom had the necessary experience of qualifications. During the course of the works a large branch struck the ladder Calogero Mule was standing on. He was not wearing a harness and was thrown to the ground, landing on his head. He fractured his spine and is now confined to a wheelchair and will never walk again.

Both defendants pleaded guilty to offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, albeit, there was a 3-day Newton hearing to iron out competing versions of events advanced by the defendants.

Ultimately the company, having agreed to make an ex gratia payment of £50,000 to Calogero Mule, was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 towards prosecution costs. Paolo Mule received an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for 2 years. He was ordered to pay £2,000 towards prosecution costs.

For further information on this story as reported by the HSE please click here.

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