A director of a Coleraine sawmill firm has pleaded guilty to causing the death of one of its workers.
Father of three and grandfather, Peter Lennon, 54, was killed while working at A Diamond and Son in Coleraine on September 27 two years ago.
Colm Diamond pleaded guilty at Antrim Crown Court on Wednesday to corporate manslaughter on behalf of the family-run company.
The Newmills Road-based company, with over 50 employees, accepted that they had caused Mr Lennon’s death, by managing or organising their “activities in a way amounting to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by you to the said deceased”.
In court to hear the company’s guilty plea were friends and family of Mr Lennon, including his widow Anne, who was embraced by Mr Diamond as she left court too distressed to talk to waiting reporters.
No details of what was described as the “terrible and tragic” death of Mr Lennon were given to the court during the short hearing.
The case was brought jointly by the police and the Health and Safety Executive.
Adjourning the proceedings, the judge said while the legislation provided for unlimited fines, it was first necessary to examine the company’s strengths and profits.
The judge said an agreed prosecution and defence statement of facts about “this terrible tragedy” was needed.
He said that in the meantime, the court could do nothing but express considerable sadness to the family and friends of Mr Lennon, who was a “hardworking and dedicated family man who did not deserve this”.
A defence barrister said the firm had instructed him to convey their “genuine heartfelt sorrow and remorse at the tragic death of not only an employee, but also a friend”.
While corporate manslaugher cases are somewhat rare in Northern Ireland, this is the third company in recent years to accept responsibility for the death of an employee, and the second company this month to appear in court on the criminal charge.