Garage owner sentenced for safety failings

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The owner of a Berkshire car maintenance business has been sentenced for safety failings after reversing into and killing a customer in his van.

Frederick Gleeson, 79, from Staines, Surrey, sustained fatal head injuries in the incident at Complete Car Care on Welley Road, Wraysbury, on March 12, 2012.

He was struck by a van driven by sole trader Mark Walker after dropping his car at the domestic business to have an oil leak checked.

Reading Crown Court heard during a week-long trial that Gleeson was in the driveway of the premises as Walker started to reverse his van along the drive to leave the garage.

Gleeson was unable to react in time as the van came towards him and was knocked over, banging his head on the drive. He was rushed to Wrexham Park Hospital but died later the same day from his injuries.

A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified that Mark Walker had no system in place for safely managing the movement of vehicles, particularly reversing vehicles, in his yard.

The court was told his van had no direct rear visibility, and that a rear monitoring camera that had retrospectively been fitted to the vehicle wasn’t used.

HSE also established that Walker did not physically check whether the route was clear of any person or arrange for assistance when reversing.

The business owner was fined £7,500 and ordered to undertake 250 hours of community work after being found guilty of two separate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He is also liable for £75,000 in prosecution costs, which will be covered through insurance.

In his summing up, the judge ruled that Walker’s breach of duty was a direct cause of Gleeson’s death.

After sentencing, HSE Inspector Nigel Fitzhugh said: “Mr Gleeson’s tragic death was entirely preventable, and could have been avoided had Mark Walker taken precautions before reversing his van.

“Managing the movement of vehicles at his premises was entirely his responsibility and it is clear there was no system in place to control this.

“Pedestrians and vehicles should always be segregated, and if that cannot happen then other precautions should be put in place.

“On this occasion that should, at the very least, have included checking the rear of the van before reversing with assistance if necessary, or putting in place a system that meant he did not have to reverse from his premises, neither of which happened.”

Further information on safely managing workplace transport can be found online at

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  • Pete Wood - 22/01/2014 09:56

    why isn't this a proper criminal case? a man died regardless of where, because he was run over by someone driving without due care and attention... 250 hours CS is nothing to the loss

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  • Ross - 22/01/2014 12:31

    Pete, without knowing the full details of the whole case it is difficult to judge whether a custodial or community service order is appropriate. I remember a few years ago seeing a documentry about drivers who had caused deaths. One gentleman was serving a 10 year jail sentance, as he had reached for chewing gum in his jacket pocket and took his eye of the road for a second, collided with a lorry on the motorway, reulting in two women being killed in the pileup caused. The drivers life was destroyed, he knew he had caused the deaths, but know one can doubt that he hadn't intended to hurt anyone, he voluntarily never drove again once he was released from jail. Whereas, often on police camera action type programs, young drivers who drive deliberately dangerously in a stolen car get insignificant sentances. The justice system is a mess and must be a massive frustration to the HSE and Police. I imagine the driver of this van is also devastated by what happened, I doubt any sentance imposed would be worse than his nightmares, probably every night. He made an error of judgement and is paying the price for that. Its no consolation for the family of course. "There but for the grace of god go I". We all have probably had moments in vehicles, which only by luck don't result in a death of someone. Do you; Always obey the speed limit without fail Check all your lights and tyres before every journey Drive too close to the vehicle in front Reverse into or out of a parking space without knowing for certain that there are no pedestrians Tune your radio and take your eye off the road at any time Program your sat-nav whilst your vehicle is in motion Use a mobile phone with or without a hands free kit Any of these could land you in court with either the Police or the HSE depending on the circumstances.

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  • Mark - 27/01/2014 11:01

    I have lost count of the amount of times that I have nearly been caught by owners reversing their car out of a parking space in a public car park. If such actions result in deaths or injury we should all take extra care now as it seems what was once treated as an accident, can now result in far more repercussions if someone is injured

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