Electrician admits he should have tested 'untidy' fuse box before death
- Credit: CPS
An electrician, accused of manslaughter, admitted in court today he should have tested the garden lights that shocked a seven-year-old boy to death.
Colin Naylor, 74, installed the outdoor lights at the King Harold pub, Harold Wood, in June 2018 – three months before the tragic incident.
Schoolboy Harvey Tyrrell died after he sat on one of the lights, while grasping a nearby metal railing with his hand, causing electricity to “flow through his body” on September 11, 2018.
The pensioner, from Rayleigh, Essex, denies manslaughter by gross negligence but admitted, during cross-examination by prosecutor Duncan Penny QC, he should have run a ‘live test’ on the lights.
Mr Naylor had previously insisted, while giving evidence during the trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court, that it was “not my problem” to test the lights once they were live and connected.
He conducted a “dead test” on five of the lights but claimed testing and certification should have been done by the National Inspection Council (NIC) and that ought to have been organised by the pub’s landlord or joint managers.
However, when questioned by Mr Penny today (February 11), Mr Naylor admitted he should have checked the electrical circuit was ‘earthed’ - connected to the ground for safety reasons - once it had been connected to a distribution board in the cellar, referred to as fuse board DB1A.
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With Mr Naylor having told police it was a “grey area”, Mr Penny asked: “The question of whether you check the earthing isn’t a grey area, is it?”.
Mr Naylor said: “I’m trying to explain that all distribution boards, when they are installed, are earthed. This was installed in 2014 or something and any electrician would have made sure those distribution boards were earthed.”
Mr Penny said: “That’s an assumption, isn’t it?”, to which Mr Naylor replied, “Well, it’s trust.”
The prosecutor continued to press the matter, asking Mr Naylor: “You should have checked it, do you agree, yes or no?”.
“Yes,” said Mr Naylor, before he added: “The installation I was doing in the garden, before the final connection the NIC would have been called in to do a check on those fuse boards.”
Mr Penny read extracts of Mr Naylor’s police interview, from January 2019, during which Mr Naylor was asked if there was anything dangerous that he had noticed in the pub.
He said: “Well, obviously the fuse board [DB1A].”
He also told police he “could see problems” with the distribution box in relation to the “amount of stuff being fed from it” but insisted it was “just untidy, not unsafe” based on how it looked - a defence he has repeated throughout the trial.
Ian Truckle, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, found 12 defects posing a risk of injury including electric shock, and 32 potentially dangerous defects, while a fellow investigator described the pub as the “most dangerous place” he had been to.
The HSE report said insulation resistance in the garden lights circuit was found to be unsatisfactory due to “the electrical connections to each light fitting being not sufficiently protected to prevent the ingress of water to the connections”.
Defence barrister Graham Trembath QC referred back to evidence heard from a witness, Paul Gilbert, who had described seeing the King Harold’s then landlord David Bearman, Mr Naylor’s brother-in-law, repairing the lights days before Harvey’s death.
Quoting Mr Gilbert, Mr Trembath said: “The … thing was the amount of time he was taking – I thought he must be either cutting earth so he didn’t blow a bulb or a complete new wiring.”
Jurors previously heard Mr Bearman had accidentally drilled through the garden lights' cable, while repairing them following “vandalism”, in late August 2018, prompting him to exclaim: “Christ, what have I done?”.
Mr Bearman, of Ardleigh Road, Romford, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence, as well as stealing electricity through the unmetered supply, and will be sentenced in due course.
Mr Naylor denies a second charge of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to take reasonable care to limit the risk or prevent the danger of serious injury or death.
The trial continues.