Appeal judges cut penalties for two firms – Fishfarmer Magazine

Appeal judges cut penalties for two firms31 January, 2012 –

TWO FIRMS fined after horror deaths at a Lorn fish farm had their penalties slashed almost in half by appeal judges last week.

Robert MacDonald, 45, of Kirkton, Appin, and Maarten Den Heiser, 30, of Longsdale Terrace, Oban lost their lives under the deck of a Scottish Sea Farms barge in Loch Creran, near Barcaldine, in May 2009.

Both the barge operator and Cumbernauld-based contractor, Logan Inglis, pleaded guilty to breaching safety rules at Oban Sheriff Court last year.

At the time, Sheriff Douglas Small had ordered Scottish Sea Farms – which has an annual turnover of £94million – to pay a fine of £600,000 and Logan Inglis £40,000 for their part in the deaths.

However, at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, judges were told Sheriff Small failed to take account of factors that should have made the fines more lenient. 

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, sitting with Lord Menzies and Lady Dorrian agreed.

Scottish Sea Farms, which turns over £94million a year, had its fine cut to £333,334, while Logan Inglis’ fine was reduced to £20,000.

In May 2009 the fish farm was having trouble with a hydraulic crane on a storage barge moored in the loch.

It was thought the fault might lie in pipe-work under the deck in chambers closed by rubber waterproof seals which were bolted down.

Campbell Files, 42, from Oban began to feel dizzy as soon as he reached the bottom of the chamber and passed out.

Volunteer firefighter Rab MacDonald, 45, from Appin, found a respirator then went down to try to rescue Mr Files. He was able to give a thumbs-up sign, then slumped in a corner.

Maarten Den Heijer, 30, from Oban, then went into the chamber with a length of rope, but collapsed as soon as he reached the bottom of the ladder.

Emergency services were called in but Mr Den Heijer and Mr MacDonald were dead. Mr Files was airlifted to hospital.

The deaths were blamed on lack of oxygen in the confined space.

This was the first time anyone from wither company had needed to go below decks.

Scottish Sea Farms admitted they had failed to assess the risks involved to their workers – even though they have 300 employees at 44 sites throughout Scotland.

They also admitted failing to provide information and training.Logan Inglis admitted similar failings but the charge against them did not allege they were responsible for the deaths.

Both firms had good records on health and safety matters, while appeal judges heard Logan Inglis, which has a turnover of more than £2.7million, had been hit hard by the economic downturn and redundancies may be on the cards if the fine were too heavy.