Essex

Concrete mixer boss Simon Bromley jailed for cannabis cultivation

Lee Balkwell
Image caption Lee Balkwell died after becoming trapped in a concrete mixer in 2002

The boss of a man crushed to death in a concrete mixer has been jailed for growing cannabis with an estimated street value of £55,000.

Lee Balkwell, 33, died at a farm in South Ockendon, Essex, in 2002.

His boss, Simon Bromley, 45, was jailed for three years after admitting the drugs offence. Sentencing for breaching health and safety regulations over Mr Balkwell's death has been adjourned.

Bromley was cleared of manslaughter at Chelmsford Crown Court on Monday.

In mitigation for the defence, Peter Rowlands told the court that his client, of Baldwin's Farm, Dennises Lane, South Ockendon, cultivated cannabis to pay off debts incurred by a previous drugs case.

He said since Mr Balkwell's death Bromley had been subject to a campaign against him alleging murder, with him being "almost stalked" via social media and phone calls.

He added the death had been "deeply traumatic for him," and that he had been smoking cannabis, drinking heavily and taking cocaine "to cope with the stress".

'Lax attitude'

Passing sentence, Judge Christopher Ball, QC, said cannabis posed "a destructive element to people's mental health".

During the trial over Mr Balkwell's death, the court was told the 33-year-old had worked as an HGV driver before being employed by Bromley to drive a concrete mixer.

The jury heard that on the day he died, Mr Balkwell and Bromley had been working to clean out hardened concrete from inside the mixer.

Mr Balkwell died after he became trapped between the drum and chassis of the vehicle.

Prosecutor Karim Khalil, QC, claimed Bromley had a "lax attitude to safety".

The court heard Mr Balkwell had not been offered any training for using the mixer and Bromley had not provided him with safety clothing or equipment.

A jury found Bromley guilty of failing to discharge his duty as an employer under health and safety rules.

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