Leeds builder jailed over chimney collapse death

Nigel Parker.
Nigel Parker.
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A builder has been jailed after an inexperienced labourer was killed when a chimney collapsed on top of him while he was left to carry out work unsupervised.

Danny Hough, 23, was crushed to death when two tonnes of masonry landed on top of him as he carried out work at a house in Batley.

Self employed builder Nigel Parker, 56, was given a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter over the incident which took place at a family home on Thorncliffe Estate, Batley, on July 25, 2013.

Leeds Crown Court heard Mr Hough had been recruited to work on the day of the tragedy as Parker was desperately short of people to work for him.

Mr Hough, who had no building qualifications or experience in the industry, was tasked with demolishing the chimney with an electric hammer drill.

Jailing Parker, of Trentham Grove, Beeston, Mr Justice McDuff said: “What you did is almost unbelievable. It goes beyond competence, carelessness and thoughtlessness.

He added: “You will always have to live with the knowledge that you were responsible for this unlawful killing.”

The court heard Mr Hough was working in the bedroom and had been placed in the “gravest possible danger”.

Shortly before the chimney gave way, Mr Hough had sent a text to his girlfriend saying how much he was enjoying the work.

Alistair MacDonald, QC, said members of the family who lived at the property were also place at risk as they were at home at the time.

Parker, who also pleaded guilty to two health and safety offences, had left 45 minutes before the incident to go look at another property he was due to do work on.

Mr MacDonald said Parker failed to carry out a risk assessment and had not obtained an structural report.

He had also failed to put safety measures such as support props in place.

Mr MacDonald said: “It is the Crown’s case that to start demolishing this chimney without supporting the upper part of the chimney would place anyone near that work in the gravest possible danger.”

Lisa Roberts, mitigating, said Parker had suffered a mental breakdown from the strain of what had happened and had received treatment in a psychiatric unit.

He has also tried made

She said not a day had gone by since the incident that Parker did not think about Mr Hough and his family.

Ms Roberts said the father-of-two was a sole trader and had worked hard in the building trade since leaving school at 16.

After the case Det Supt Jon Morgan, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Nigel Parker took a risk and Daniel Hough paid for that risk with his life. His death was a tragedy, not least because it could have been avoided if Mr Parker had fulfilled his duty of care to his employees. It is by sheer luck that other people, including the occupants of the house, avoided injury

Hleath and Safety Executive Inspector Andrew Denison said: “This was a tragic incident that could have been easily avoided. Mr Parker was responsible for multiple and serious failings and reckless breaches of the law.

“He started removing the chimney part way up in the first floor bedroom and had no control measures in place to prevent the chimney collapsing.

“Daniel Hough was only 23 and an inexperienced construction worker. Mr Parker had never met him until the day of this incident but left him working unsupervised with an unstable structure while he visited another site.

“In addition he did not ensure the residents had moved out before work on the removal of the chimney began, putting all their lives in danger.”