Scaffolder killed after derelict church collapse

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Four bosses have received suspended prison sentences after a scaffolder was killed at the site of the Citadel Church in Splott, Cardiff.

The four companies, received combined fines of more than £340,000, of which three of the men were directors,.

The worker was named as Jeffrey Joseph Plevey, 55, from Radyr, he died when the derelict building fell down as he worked on it in July 2017.

There was a subsequent recovery operation by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and the All Wales Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team, Plevey’s body was recovered from the rubble.

A joint investigation, led by the Major Crime Team of South Wales Police, also involving the HSE was carried out resulting in an 11-week trial held at a court in Swansea Civic Centre.

On December 15, 2021 Keith Young and Stewart Swain were both convicted of criminal health and safety offences.

A jury found Young guilty of failing to take necessary steps to ensure a structure does not collapse when carrying out construction work contrary to Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Stewart Swain and his company, Swain Scaffolding Ltd, were also found guilty of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Young and Swain were cleared of gross negligence manslaughter charges.

Two other men, Phil Thomas, from South Wales Safety Consultancy Ltd, and Richard Dean, from NJP Consultant Engineers Ltd, and a fourth company Strongs Partnership pleaded guilty to health and safety offences prior to the trial.

This week all four men returned to Cardiff Crown Court and were sentenced as follows:

  • Stewart Swain, 54, of Rhiwbina, Cardiff: 39-week sentence suspended for 15 months. He must pay costs of £25,000.
  • Philip Thomas, 57, of Thornhill, Cardiff: 36-week sentence suspended for 15 months. He must pay costs of £20,000.
  • Richard Dean, 60, of Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent, 35-week sentence suspended for 15 months. He must pay costs of £20,000.
  • Keith Young, 74, of Llandough, Vale of Glamorgan: 45-week sentence suspended for 18 months. He must pay costs of £66,000.

Swain Scaffolding Ltd was fined £120,000 with costs of £25,000, South Wales Safety Consultancy Ltd was fined £97,500 with £17,500 costs, NJP Consultant Engineers Ltd was fined £93,300 with £6,700 in costs and Strongs Partnership Ltd was fined £33,500 with £17,500 in costs.

Detective Inspector Stuart Wales, from the South Wales Police Major Crime Investigation Team, commented saying that: “Jeff Plevey was an experienced scaffolder and a popular hard-working man who was owed a duty of care when he went into work that day.

“Our thoughts are with Jeff’s family and friends who have waited four and a half years to see justice done following his untimely and avoidable death on July 18 2017.

“His family have shown incredible patience, support and dignity throughout what has been a lengthy, challenging and complex investigation.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the witnesses who patiently supported this investigation, particularly colleagues who were working alongside Jeff on the day he died.

“They have also waited a long time to see justice done and were themselves affected by those avoidable events in Splott.”

After the hearing, HSE inspector Liam Osborne commented saying that: “Jeff Plevey died because people were put to work on a scaffold against a towering stone wall that managers, safety professionals and contractors knew, or could see, was obviously unstable before work started.

“The demolition and scaffolding were badly planned and dangerously carried out from the very beginning, and throughout the job. Instead of the building being made safer as demolition progressed, it became even more unstable.  Those people who made bad decisions, gave poor advice, or failed to act in the face of extreme and obvious risk have now been held accountable.”

He added: “I’d like to pay tribute to Mr Plevey’s family, friends and colleagues for their help and understanding throughout this long and exceptionally detailed investigation.

“I sincerely hope that the scaffolding, demolition and consultancy industries in Wales and beyond take time to learn from this terrible tragedy. Pre-work planning, choosing remote methods of demolition, sharing critical information between parties and putting in a system of managed checks would have prevented this incident.”