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Worlingworth: Family’s search for answers continues after they’re left ‘totally unsatisfied’ with court ruling

PUBLISHED: 10:09 15 February 2014

Bethany, Linda and David Skeet wore red to Ipswich Crown Court on Friday, 14 February to signify their broken hearts while hearing the verdict of Matthew Skeet's death in 2010.

Bethany, Linda and David Skeet wore red to Ipswich Crown Court on Friday, 14 February to signify their broken hearts while hearing the verdict of Matthew Skeet's death in 2010.

The family of a teenage workman killed on a construction site in Suffolk have vowed to continue their search for answers after a judge’s sentencing left them “totally unsatisfied”.

Matthew Skeet, 19, died when the wall of a barn he was helping to convert in Worlingworth, near Framlingham, collapsed, crushing him and his employer Kevin Ruffles, 57, in October 2010.

Those responsible for safety failings on the site where the two men died were yesterday fined a total of £60,000 and ordered to pay combined costs of a further £20,000.

Mr Justice Rabinder Singh, sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court, said the fines “cannot and do not attempt to put a value on the loss of human life”.

“Nothing which I say can provide adequate comfort to the family of Mr Ruffles or Mr Skeet,” he added.

However the Skeet family, from Woodbridge, have despaired at what they believe is the impotence of the justice system.

Although the safety failings were not directly attributed to the deaths, Linda Skeet, Matthew’s mother, said the fines were “comical”, a “failure of justice” and had tainted her son’s memory.

“My son was wiped off the face of the earth through no fault of his own and it seems as though his life was barely worth a penny,” she said.

“We’re not satisfied that justice has been done and we won’t rest until we feel that it has been.

“Matty was the innocent party in all of this and yet no one seems to have been held fully accountable for his death.”

Barry Potts, 65, a structural engineer from Freston, was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs for his part in safety failings on the site leading up to the fatal accident.

Elliston Steady & Hawes (Building) Ltd, the site contractor, was fined £45,000 and ordered to pay a further £15,000 in costs at the hearing.

The court heard that Mr Skeet and Mr Ruffles had died when the barn’s gable wall fell on them following the excavation of a trench which undermined its foundations.

Investigators for the Health and Safety Executive had determined that there was “no rational explanation” for Potts to agree to the excavation being carried out in the method suggested by Mr Ruffles.

Judge Singh said Potts had “failed to consider the inherent dangers of the area being investigated” and held a “fundamental misunderstanding of the risks involved”.

“He fell far below the standards expected of him by the health and safety at work act,” he ruled.

Judge Singh agreed with the company’s defence that it was “entitled to rely on” Potts in maintaining the site safety.

However he said there had been a “serious breach” in safety because of its failure to ensure the correct method statement were produced.

“I accept that (the company) failed in its responsibilities to properly manage the project and put appropriate mechanisms in place and this was not simply a failure of documents being in place,” he said.

Engineers worked through the night to restore power to households across Suffolk and north Essex after the region was battered by winds of over 70mph.

Commuters using Greater Anglia trains in Suffolk and Essex are facing further disruption after the region’s rail network was brought to its knees by yesterday’s storm.

The mother of a selfless Suffolk fundraiser is continuing her daughter’s fight to persuade women and girls to have smear tests in her honour.

An alliance of schools in Ipswich has won £20,000 of funding to boost the quality of teaching in the area through better use of research.

A car has rolled onto its roof following a single vehicle collision on the A12 at Copdock.

A well-known Elvis impersonator from Ipswich has died at the age of 57 following a short battle with cancer.

A Second World War hand grenade has been destroyed in a controlled explosion after being handed in at Felixstowe Police Station by a member of the public.

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