Bosley wood mill managers cleared of health and safety charges after fatal blast

Philip Smith and Peter Shingler Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

Two mill managers have been acquitted of health and safety offences after an explosion which killed four people.

Mill worker Derek Moore, 62, cleaner Dorothy Bailey, 62, maintenance fitter Derek William Barks, known as Will, 51, and chargehand Jason Shingler, 38, were killed in the blast at the wood mill in Bosley, Cheshire, on July 17 2015.

Jason Shingler's body was never recovered.

The workers who died (from left) Derek Moore, Dorothy Bailey, Jason Shingler and William Barks. Credit: Cheshire Police/PA

Mill manager Peter Shingler, 56, of Tunstall Road, Bosley, and operations manager Philip Smith, 58, of Raglan Road, Macclesfield, had each been charged with a health and safety offence.

Following a 12-week trial, the jury was today directed to return not guilty verdicts.

It came after the jury was directed on Thursday to find mill owner George Boden and firm Wood Treatment Ltd not guilty of manslaughter charges.

Emergency services at the site of the Bosley explosion Credit: PA

Following the events of yesterday and adjournment overnight, the position has now been reached that the prosecution will not continue to seek guilty verdicts in the case of Mr Smith and Mr Shingler.

Tony Badenoch QC, prosecuting

After he was cleared of four counts of gross negligence manslaughter, Boden pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

George Boden Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

Wood Treatment Ltd had admitted a health and safety offence before going on trial charged with corporate manslaughter.

None of the victims' relatives were in court to see the not guilty verdicts returned, although the hearings were being relayed on video link.

The judge said the jurors could be released from jury service for 10 years.

Members of the jury, it's been a long trial and we are very grateful to you for your attendance and attention throughout it.

Judge Mrs Justice May

The manslaughter charges were dropped following an application to dismiss on behalf of the defendants at the end of the prosecution case.

In her judgment, later confirmed by the Court of Appeal, Mrs Justice May ruled there was not enough evidence to prove that gross negligence caused the explosion.

Following the verdicts, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Hughes, who led the investigation, said: "We understand that this will not be what the families had hoped for and that it will not take away from the devastating loss they feel.

"We know that this has been an extremely difficult time for everyone involved and we are continuing to support the families as they come to terms with the outcome."

Bosley Mill after the explosion Credit: PA

During the trial, which began in early February, the court heard the damage caused to the mill had made it impossible for investigators to determine the cause of the blast.

The prosecution said it involved an explosion of wood dust allegedly caused by negligence on the part of the company and management, who they claimed knew dust levels were excessively high.

The jury heard evidence that employees had raised concerns about safety at the mill in the years leading up to the explosion and reported "mounds" of wood dust piling up.

Boden and Wood Treatment Ltd will be sentenced on June 18.