London

Boss jailed over Knightsbridge balcony fall deaths

Scene of balcony collapse Image copyright PA
Image caption The renovation was behind schedule and over budget

A construction boss has been jailed for "shocking failures" that resulted in two workmen falling to their deaths from a balcony during a luxury flat refit in Knightsbridge, west London.

Tomasz Procko, 22, and Karol Symanski, 29, died in an "entirely foreseeable and preventable" accident while hauling a sofa on to a first-floor balcony.

They died when 130-year-old railings supporting the sofa gave way in 2014.

Boss Martin Gutaj, 44, from Brentford, was jailed for 14 months.

Image caption Boss Martin Gutaj, 44, from Brentford, was jailed for 14 months

Martinisation (London) Limited, which denied any wrong-doing, was found guilty of health and safety breaches and charged with two counts of corporate manslaughter.

The now-defunct company was also fined £1.2m.

The court heard that in order to safely deliver the "big and cumbersome" 18-stone (115kg) sofa required an elevator that would have cost £848.

Gutaj rejected the suggestion. He said the workers "do not have time for all that" and they would have to manually move the sofa to the flat in Cadogan Square - located between Harrods and Sloane Square.

'Sensitive boy'

Mr Procko's parents made statements about their "irreversible loss" read out in court in their absence.

Agnieszka Procko described her son as a "wonderful, intelligent person who loved life very much" and a "sensitive boy" who was well liked by his friends.

She said: "We as a family are not judging anyone but our world has collapsed after the death of our son.

"Maybe if the standards were maintained then this terrible tragedy would not have happened.

"We do not feel resentment or anger towards anyone but it is not for us to assess who bears the responsibility for the death of our son. Let the court decide this."

Image caption The renovation was behind schedule and over budget

The court heard that at the time, the company, which specialised in "high end residential contracts" in Kensington and Chelsea, had a turnover of £9.7m per year but went into liquidation in August last year.

Sentencing, Judge Gerald Gordon said company documents were "for show" and a health and safety culture was "entirely lacking", despite warnings.

On the day of the accident, there was a "shocking failure to consider the health and safety of employees and others", he said.

Judge Gordon said Gutaj's motives for ignoring the warnings "must have been in one way or another to benefit his business".

He added: "The word has got to get out that health and safety on building sites is not a boring technicality.

"It is vital to the safety of employees and others in what is inherently a dangerous environment.

"Those who are wilfully blind to the risks despite warnings - as you were - have got to expect to go immediately to prison."

Gutaj was disqualified from being a company director for four years.

More on this story