Northern Ireland

J Murray and Sons pleads guilty to manslaughter

A County Down company has pleaded guilty to the corporate manslaughter of one of its employees.

J Murray & Sons, Burn Road, Ballygowan, will be sentenced on Friday.

A similar charge of the unlawful killing of Norman Porter on 28 February, 2012, against company director James Daniel Murray, of the same address, was not proceeded with.

Mr Porter had either fallen or was dragged, having caught his clothing, into an animal feed mixing machine.

Prosecution counsel said that the safety guards at the top of the machine had been removed.

Danger overlooked

There were also other health and safety breaches and any employee could have ended up entangled in the machine, the prosecution said.

Defence counsel said that Mr Murray wished to extend his personal feelings of extreme remorse and to express his sincere apologies and condolences to Mr Porter's family.

The defence barrister said there was a misunderstanding concerning Mr Murray's son, James' comments to police afterwards, and seen by the trial judge as a possible cover-up.

Mr Murray jr, he said, had not tampered with the machine afterwards, and that at all times it was accepted the machine was operated without the safety cover.

"Mr Murray sr has nothing but utter remorse and utter sympathy for Mr Porter's family," he said.

Mr Porter, he said, had been a lifelong friend of Mr Murray. The simple fact of the matter was, said the lawyer, Mr Murray had never seen the machine, which he himself also operated, as a potential danger and the possible consequences were overlooked.

The barrister said that the machine had always been operated by two men, and it was believed that since the mechanism operated so slowly, if someone fell in, the machine could be switched off, causing little or no injury.

"Mr Murray never applied his mind to it, and that is why there is a plea. It wasn't something at the forefront of his mind, one of those things that he sadly overlooked," said the barrister, who added that Mr Murray only "wishes every day of his life", that he could turn back time for everyone concerned.

Defence counsel said it was accepted that the company faced a substantial penalty, but revealed the firm was not in a healthy position and that jobs could be lost.