‘Nightmare’ over for Alfie Perrin’s parents as Rooftop Rooms Ltd fined £325,000 over his death
PUBLISHED: 17:40 04 September 2015 | UPDATED: 01:21 05 September 2015
A loft conversion company has been sentenced over the death of a teenager who fell from scaffolding at a house in Wanstead.
Rooftop Rooms Ltd was ordered to pay a fine of £325,000 today at Snaresbrook Crown Court after apprentice Alfie Perrin, 16, from Enfield, died from a head injury after slipping from the property in Camden Road on November 12, 2012 – when the company was completing an extension.
Judge Martin Zeidman QC ordered the company to pay £100,000 by December 31, £100,000 by December 31 2016 and the rest by December 31 2017.
The sentencing of Rooftop Rooms Ltd, which pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations, was due to take place in May, but was pushed back until this week.
Mr Zeidman said at the hearing: “I’m pleased that the directors of the company Colin Allison and Gary Smith are here because there are things they need to hear – the bottom line is that Rooftop Rooms has behaved very badly.
“Rooftop Rooms has caused the death of a 16-year-old apprentice, Alfie, now obviously no one intended that to happen – that’s why it’s not murder or manslaughter – but the company does deserve to be punished.”
Site supervisor Andrew Voy, 35, of Memorial Avenue, West Ham, was cleared of manslaughter following a trial on March 31 at Snaresbrook Crown Court.
The judge said the act of “bombing” rubbish – throwing waste materials from height into skips without a shoot – was “widespread” within the company.
He said: “I regard it as a significant aggravating factor that there has been previous complaints of bombing – the fact it didn’t lead to conviction doesn’t dilute the significance of the point – knowing that it happened, management should have taken steps to make sure it was not repeated.”
He said that the danger was “foreseeable” and that Alfie’s death was an “accident waiting to happen”.
Mr Zeidman said that Rooftop Rooms “failed in their duty of care” towards the young apprentices that worked for them.
“The message is this – those who employ young people have a duty to ensure particular care to deal with youngsters,” he said.
“They may be anxious to please and it may make them less able to assess risk. They may find it hard to refuse to take on a dangerous activity – no young person wants to appear a wimp and so they shouldn’t be put in that position.”
The judge said he “entirely rejected” the defence that the incident followed a “remote” case of bombing.
He added: “If the rules had been followed then Alfie Perrin would not have been killed.”
After listening to defence lawyer Andrew McGee’s mitigation plea Mr Zeidman accepted that the company had been called a “quality outfit” by inspectors in a health and safety report in 2010 and that it had not had any other problems with the inspectorate.
He also accepted that the company had “drastically changed” since Alfie’s death, with employees now having to wear harnesses while on construction sites.
“It’s too late for Alfie Perrin but we know as a result the chances of it happening to someone else is very unlikely,” said Mr Zeidman.
Before issuing the fine he said: “You need to remember that no fine can reflect the value of Alfie and my order does not attempt to do so.”
He said he did not intend to bankrupt the business, which employs about 70 people – including regular subcontractors.
The company made £200,000 last year and has been operating since 2004.
“I acknowledge that the company is not flushed with cash but the accounts show that it’s doing well with profit and increased turnover,” said Mr Zeidman.
“The fine will seldom be more than £100,000.
“But it’s obvious the company’s wrongdoing has destroyed the quality of life of a loving family.
“I want to pay tribute to the family – there’s nothing that I can say or do that will lessen the horror of this tragedy.
“I wish you well and once again express my condolences for the huge loss of Alfie Perrin.”
After the sentencing, Alfie’s dad Mark said: “It’s gone as good as could have.
“With the fine that was imposed it will make people take notice and possibly look into how they treat apprentices.
“It definitely gives us some closure and we can try and move on now.”
Alfie’s mum Jaqui said: “They [Rooftop Rooms Ltd] are cowards – they’ve shown no respect to us or Alfie. They’ve done their best to drag it out.”
She added: “It’s the most justice we can get – it’s been a nightmare and it could’ve been finished in March.
“Mentally, we always feel Alfie’s missing – we always feel his absence.”