Judge orders mining firm to make payout

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A judge today ordered Britain’s biggest mining firm to pay £1.2 million in fines and costs after he heard how four miners - including one from South Yorkshire - died following safety breaches in four separate incidents.

UK Coal admitted offences under health and safety laws in relation to the deaths of Trevor Steeples, Paul Hunt, Anthony Garrigan, , 42, from Thorne, near Doncaster, and Paul Milner.

Mr Steeples, Mr Hunt and Mr Garrigan died following incidents at Daw Mill colliery, near Coventry in 2006 and 2007.

Mr Milner died after an incident at the now-closed Welbeck Colliery, in Nottinghamshire, in 2007.

Mr Justice MacDuff said at Sheffield Crown Court he would not impose a penalty so high it would cripple a company suffering real financial problems.

He said UK Coal would be fined £112,500 in relation to each incident and would pay a further £187,500 in costs in each case.

But he urged the families of the dead men to focus on the total combined financial penalty for the firm.

The judge said: “These were, of course, dreadful accidents. They were preventable accidents.

“However, unlike most criminal acts, there was no intention to kill or injure.

“But the law rightly demands a high duty of care by employers for the safety of their employees and other workers.

“Mining is and will remain a dangerous occupation. These accidents all occurred in the depths of the earth.”

He added: “This is not easy work - neither in conception nor in execution. But safety is paramount in the modern world.

“Long gone are the days of 60 and more years ago, when men were allowed to die and suffer dreadful injury in pursuit of profits for coal owners.”

The judge told the court: “In each of the cases the death would have been prevented if proper safe systems of working had been in place - and if those systems had been enforced.”