Portadown builder’s sentence increased at Court of Appeal

Date published: 19 May 2017

Portadown builder Norman McKenzie has his sentence increased at Court of Appeal. This was in relation to health and safety failings that led to the death of his employee Mr. Petyo Hristanov on 20 January 2015 and caused injury to another worker.

The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland considered the earlier sentence of Mr McKenzie on 10 March 2017 to be unduly lenient and referred the case to the Court of Appeal for review of the sentence.

The DPP presented the case to the Court of Appeal, on the grounds that the sentence handed down fell outside the range of sentences which the judge, applying all relevant factors, should reasonably have considered appropriate. 

The Court of Appeal subsequently issued its judgement on 18 May 2017.  Mr McKenzie was given a 24-month custodial sentence on the count of manslaughter. Mr McKenzie will serve 12 months in prison and 12 months on licence. In addition the court imposed sentences of 6 months imprisonment on each of the counts relating to Health and Safety offences to run concurrently with the twenty four months imposed on the count of manslaughter. The fines previously imposed were removed.

HSENI, who led the investigation along with PSNI, welcome the Court of Appeal decision which will act as a deterrent to others. This custodial sentence also highlights the vital importance of managing health and safety properly and the very tragic and serious consequences of safety failings.

We concur with Lord Justice Gillen’s observation “The law moves on, the need to protect workmen is now more obvious to us all”. Lord Justice Gillen also said: “deterrence is necessary to prevent others behaving in this way and to bring to the attention of the construction industry generally the consequences of failure to ensure the safety of workmen.” 

The case relates to the building of a 3-bay farm shed at Derrycarne Road and brings into clear focus important issues for those who work in both the farming and construction industries. Any farmer who engages the services of a builder must ensure this work is carried out safely and to proper health and safety guidelines. A builder must assess the risks associated with the job and put preventative measures in place. As this case highlights, failure to do so can result in a needless loss of life and strict sentences.

Falls while carrying out work at heights are a well known danger and the preventative measures are easily available. Information on your legal duties about working at height, as a person commissioning the work (the client), or as a person carrying out the work, is available from our falls from height topic page: 

If as an employee you are asked to work at heights and are concerned about safety measures please call HSENI’s duty Inspector at HSENI’s Information and Advice Helpline on 0800 0320 121 for more information.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The original sentence of McKenzie was made at Craigavon Crown Court on 10 March 2017.
  2. The revised Breaches and fines for Mr. McKenzie are as follows:
    •  Manslaughter: a -24-month custodial sentence to serve 12 months in prison and 12 months on licence.
    •  Article 4(1) by virtue of 4(2)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 - 6 months imprisonment to run concurrently with the twenty four months imposed on the count of manslaughter.
    •  Regulation 3(1)(a) Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 - 6 months imprisonment to run concurrently with the twenty four months imposed on the count of manslaughter.  
  3. Regulation 6(3) Work at Height Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005 - 6 months imprisonment to run concurrently with the twenty four months imposed on the count of manslaughter.
  4. A written decision can be found on the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service website: https://www.courtsni.gov.uk/enGB/Judicial%20Decisions/Pages/default.aspx
  5. Previously on 10 March 2017 Mr. McKenzie pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was given a 15-month custodial sentence suspended for three years and fined £3,000 at Craigavon Crown Court. 
  6. Almost half of the deaths due to accidents at work in the construction industry are the result of falls from a height. There were 43 fatal accidents on construction sites from 2000 to 2010 in Northern Ireland, 20 of which were due to falls from a height. 
  7. Guidance material available to assist in building a farm shed safely include: ‘Managing Health and Safety in Construction – L144’, ‘HSE guidance Health and Safety in Roof Work HSG33’ and HSENI guidance: ‘Building a new farm building or renovating an existing farm building?’
  8. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body, sponsored by the Department for the Economy.
  9. HSENI is the lead body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of health and safety at work standards in Northern Ireland.
  10. This was a joint Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) investigation.

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