Suspended jail term for Kent firm director who put householders at asbestos risk

Published:  14 September, 2012

The director of a Bromley firm who showed reckless disregard for safety has received a suspended jail sentence after removing asbestos without a licence and falsifying an air test certificate.

Peter Horrey, sole director of Absolute Asbestos, was found guilty of three breaches of the asbestos regulations after he failed to effectively remove the asbestos insulation from the boiler room of a home in Camden.

As well as being unlicensed to remove asbestos, Horrey left visible fibres that were a danger to the householders and to the plumbers, who were due to start work in the boiler room, Southwark Crown Court heard yesterday, 13 September.

The analyst who went to take an air test provided Horrey with a certificate clearly showing the site had failed, but he gave a doctored report to the owners indicating it had passed the test and was safe for them to re-enter.

Horrey was given six months' prison sentence on each charge, to run concurrently and suspended for two years; 300 hours' unpaid community service; an electronic curfew between 9pm and 6am for three months; ordered to pay £11,340 to the affected Residents' Association in Camden and ordered to pay £10,160 costs.

HSE Inspector Dominic Elliss, who investigated the incident, said he was appalled by Horrey's reckless disregard for safety in the full knowledge of the dangers caused by exposure to asbestos.

"He operated outside the safeguards provided by a licensing regime, failed to clean and decontaminate the work area and then lied to the residents of the property by providing an altered air safety test done by an analyst and informing them it was clear to re-enter.

"He clearly set out to deceive these householders but, worse than that, he was apparently content to put them and the plumbers who had been booked shortly afterwards at risk.

"Asbestos is not an historical threat. It is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK and the dangers are well-known in the construction and property industries. That is why there is a well-established licensing system with companies who are fully trained and experienced in dealing properly with asbestos of all types."

Around 4,000 people die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Information on how to work safely with asbestos is available at www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos.