Building boss convicted of manslaughter after roofer death

Steven Wenham, 48, of Charlotte Street in Brighton, and John Nicholas Spiller, 52, of Fishersgate Close in Portslade, were found guilty of several charges at Lewes Crown Court last week following a long and complex investigation led by Sussex Police, with support from the HSE.

A prosecution had also been brought against two companies of which the pair are directors – Total Contractor’s Ltd and Southern Asphalt Ltd.

It follows an incident at a building site in Brunswick Street West, Hove, on Friday, July 27, 2018, in which a roofer subcontracted by Southern Asphalt fell two storeys from a ladder to his death.

An inspection by the HSE found multiple safety failings including no scaffolding or barriers to protect those working at a height.

The victim – 60-year-old Graham Tester – had been using a ladder, secured with only two nails hammered into a timber frame on either side of it.

Wenham was charged with, and found guilty of, manslaughter by gross negligence. Both he and his company Total Contractor’s Ltd were also found guilty of two offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act regarding failure to properly safeguard against serious injury or death from a fall from height.

Spiller was found not guilty of manslaughter, but convicted of an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act regarding a failure to properly safeguard against serious injury of death from a fall from height.

His roofing company, Southern Asphalt Ltd, had already pleaded guilty to the same offence.

Both men have been released on bail awaiting sentence on June 7.

Detective Inspector James Meanwell said: “Employers owe a duty of care to their employees.

“Steven Wenham and John Spiller failed in that duty – the consequences of which were Graham’s tragic death and an irreparable loss to his children and grandchildren.

“It is my hope that Sussex Police’s investigation and the subsequent trial were able to answer his family’s questions and offer them some measure of comfort that justice has been done.”

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