Builder jailed over boys death at work

The owner of a building company has been sentenced to three years in jail after a teenage boy was killed in an accident on his site.

Adam Gosling was just 15 years old when he died after a wall fell on him and crushed him while he was working in the grounds of a five bedroom house in Hadley Wood, north London in April 2007. He had been working as a labourer for Colin Holtom aged 64 from Latchingdon in Essex, with his older brother Dean for £25 a day after leaving school early.

The Old Bailey in London heard that on the day of the accident Adam and Dean had been left unsupervised to knock down a seven metre high wall, by Colin Holtom. They were given no safety equipment such as hard hats, protective boots, or safety goggles but were provided with just a sledgehammer and pneumatic drill to carry out the task. The court heard that Darren Fowler who had subcontracted the work to Holtom had advised that the wall was unstable and should only have been taken down brick by brick. The two teenagers were given no such instruction.

Dean Gosling insists that the pair were given no specific instructions or training and he told the jury that as they began taking the wall down it suddenly began to lean towards the rear garden, at which point dean grabbed hold of the wall while Adam went in search of Holtom for help.

Prosecuting Martin Bowyer said in court: “According to Dean, when Adam came back, he said that he had been told by Holtom to go to the neighbours garden and push the wall back, as they had been told not to let the wall fall. Whatever instruction Holtom gave to Adam Gosling, he did not in fact go back himself to see what was going on. Adam then jumped over a small fence into the rear garden and attempted to prop up the wall as his older brother was trying to pull it back. Then tragically it toppled towards Adam, splitting in the middle, and fell on top of him. Dean was utterly distraught. He leapt over the wall and tried to push it back but realised he didn’t have the strength. He ran to find Holtom to tell him what happened and they both ran back. Holtom said words to the effect of ‘stupid idiot, what was he doing behind there?’ to which dean replied ‘don’t lie now’.”

Adam should not have been carrying out such duties at his age and no-one should have without specialised safety equipment. Holtom was charged with manslaughter by gross negligence at the Old Bailey to which he denied at earlier hearings but later pleaded guilty. He also admitted running a company while disqualified from being a director.

Judge Christopher Moss told Holtom that he bore the lion’s share of the blame for Adams death. He told Holtom: “You adopted a cavalier and thoroughly irresponsible attitude to the brother’s safety. You simply left them to their own devices. Your actions – or lack of them – on that day were criminal. And yet you still regard yourself as blameless for his death.” Holtom was sentenced to three years in prison after he changed his plea just a week before the retrial was due to begin.

Adams father Mark Gosling said in a statement: “Adam had his life stolen from him before it had started.” He said that Holtom openly talked about the death in the village pub and showed no remorse.

Contractor Darren Fowler was also jailed for a year over health and safety breaches.

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