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Jul 27th, 2018

Golf course manager's death leads to £150k fine

Hinckley GC ordered to step up health & safety

Hinckley Golf Club has been ordered to pay £150,000 in fines and costs for health and safety breaches relating to the death of a course manager.

Douglas Johnstone, who was known as Dougie, sufered a fatal brain injury when the branch of  an already collapsed poplar tree, blown over in a storm, struck him on the head while he was using a chainsaw without a helmet.

Dougie Johnston

Sentencing at Leicester Crown Court, Judge Martin Hurst said the accident happened against a background of "a systemic failure to deal with health and safety" at the club.

He said the club had since taken "substantial steps" to voluntarily improve its health and safety arrangements.

The judge added: "The other side of the coin is that the steps now taken demonstrate the woeful state of health and safety before."

During an 11 day trial in May, the jury was told that Mr Johnstone was not qualified to use the motorised saw, although club officials believed he was, according to his job application. He had exaggerated his credentials.

Hinckley GC

The court heard that Mr Johnstone was carrying out the chainsaw work unaccompanied, after other ground workers had gone home for the day, as darkness closed in.

The 56-year-old died alone, and his body was found beside the tree, near the 14th hole, the following morning, on December 28, 2013.

The judge said during sentencing that he agreed that Hinckley Golf Club was a "highly regarded local institution", with no previous health and safety convictions.

He said he accepted a submission from defence counsel James Maxwell-Scott QC that any financial penalties should not affect the future existence of the 18-hole club.

He criticised the club for not making calls to confirm Mr Johnstone's qualifications and experience with his two previous employers at Wentworth and Pinner golf courses.

The golf course has a £1m annual turnover and employs 36 staff. It operates on a not-for-profit basis and is run by volunteer members.

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