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Judge accuses boss of lying at UK explosion trial

16 February 2012

A judge accused the managing director of a gas-supply firm for lying throughout his trial over safety failings, following an explosion at his factory in St Helens. John Webster of North West Gases Ltd was found guilty of failing to protect himself and his workers following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

The facility in St Helens after the explosion
The facility in St Helens after the explosion

The prosecution was brought after an explosion at the company’s factory on 10 April 2008.
On the day of the incident, Webster and another worker were attempting to remove a valve on a LPG cylinder, which the company produced for a range of uses.
They failed to ensure that the cylinder was empty and when they unscrewed the valve, and gas escaped into the workshop, subsequently igniting and causing an explosion. Both suffered serious burns and post-traumatic stress disorder. A third employee suffered minor injuries during the explosion. 
The injured worker disputed Webster’s version of events on a number of points, including whether he had been instructed to empty the cylinder, and the court heard that the accused took no action to remove the gas himself or give consideration to the multiple potential ignition sources in the workshop.
On 13 February, Webster was found guilty of breaching s7 of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £22,500. He was also ordered to pay £2500 towards costs.
In delivering his sentence, Judge Morrow said: “The jury rejected your evidence because they must have been sure your were lying, as I am sure that you were lying..”


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