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Skip hire firm boss faces prison over worker death

PUBLISHED: 16:49 19 March 2019 | UPDATED: 09:03 20 March 2019

Robert Baldwin, Norwich Crown Court. PICTURE: Archant

Robert Baldwin, Norwich Crown Court. PICTURE: Archant

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

A businessman has been warned he faces prison after he was convicted following the death of a skip hire firm worker who was suffocated when his clothing became caught in machinery.

James Criddle, who died in an industrial incident in Besthorpe. Picture courtesy of Kevin Copplestone.James Criddle, who died in an industrial incident in Besthorpe. Picture courtesy of Kevin Copplestone.

James Criddle, 29, from Watton, was working at Baldwin Skip Hire in Besthorpe on May 15, 2017, when the accident happened involving waste-screening machinery which had been bought for £18,000 on eBay, but was not fitted with safety guards, Norwich Crown Court has been told.

Robert Baldwin, 47, of Silver Street, Besthorpe, had pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Criddle by gross negligence.

The jury of nine women and three men took three and a quarter hours to find Baldwin not guilty of manslaughter but guilty of a charge of consenting or conniving in the commission of an offence or neglect to which that offence was attributable.

Baldwin, who wore a dark suit in the dock, appeared to fight back tears as the verdicts were announced.

James Criddle. PIC: Supplied by Norfolk Police.James Criddle. PIC: Supplied by Norfolk Police.

Sentencing was adjourned until a date to be fixed so a pre-sentence report could be carried out.

But Baldwin was warned by Judge Alice Robinson that the fact she had ordered a pre-sentence report “should not be taken as any indication Mr Baldwin will not be given a sentence of immediate custody in what, on any view, is a very serious matter”.

He was granted bail until the sentencing hearing.

During the trial, which started last week, the jury had heard how Gediminas Savickas, an former excavator driver at Baldwin Skip Hire, Besthorpe, had made a desperate effort to free Mr Criddle on the day he died.

Mr Savickas told prosecutor Julia Faure Walker that Mr Criddle had earlier come and asked him for “a shovel or a spade”.

He did not say what he wanted it for but Mr Savickas said he did not have one.

The jury heard that after lunch he became aware of some shouting.

The witness, who joined the company in May 2017 but no longer works there, told the court he saw Mr Criddle’s body by the machine with a shovel there.

He said he could not pull the shovel out so he “pushed it into the machine”.

He told the court how he got a knife out of Mr Criddle’s pocket to try and cut away his clothing but could not because it was “really tight”.

During the trial the jury also heard from David Rudland, a specialist inspector at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

He said it was likely that Mr Criddle was “trying to unblock the machine with a shovel”.

Mr Rudland said the machine was not fitted with safety guards.

He said the area Mr Criddle went to unblock “should’ve been guarded to prevent access to the dangerous moving parts”.

He told Julia Faure Walker, prosecuting, that “In my view if these had been in place the accident could have been prevented.”

In conclusion, Mr Rudland said that “many areas of the machine were not guarded so as to allow access to dangerous moving parts”.

He said that while guards might have been fitted in the past he saw no evidence of any guards on site.

He said the site of the accident posed a “serious risk of entanglement.

The jury was told Baldwin Skip Hire has already pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety duties to an employee.

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