Belfast Harbour Commissioners deny corporate manslaughter charge over Neil Rooney death in 2017

 Niall Carson/PA Wire
Neil Rooney lost his life in March 2017 while working at Belfast Harbour Credit: PA

A representative from Belfast Harbour Commissioners appeared in court on Wednesday where he, on behalf of the organisation, denied a charge of corporate manslaughter.

Co Down father-of-two Neil Rooney lost his life in March 2017 whilst working at a building site in the Stormont Wharf area of the Belfast Harbour Estate.

Belfast Harbour Commissioners, based at Corporation Square in the city, has been charged with three offences arising from the fatality - all of which were denied on Wednesday.

Michael Robinson attended Belfast Crown Court on behalf of Belfast Harbour Commissioners where he was formally charged with all three offences.

It's alleged that on March 21, 2017 the organisation caused the death of Neil Rooney by managing or organising its activities in a way that amounted to a gross breach of a relevant care of duty owed to him, contrary to the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

When the charge was put to Mr Robinson on behalf of Belfast Harbour Commissioners, he replied "not guilty".

The organisation was also charged with two health and safety offences on the same date - namely as an employer failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees and as an employer failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees.

When these two charges were put to Mr Robinson, he again replied "not guilty" to each offence on behalf of the organisation.

Following the arraignment, a barrister acting for Belfast Harbour Commissioners told Judge Patricia Smyth that an application to 'stay' the proceedings was being made.

This, the defence barrister said, was on grounds including the passage of time since Mr Rooney's "very sad death" and the "gross delay" in bringing proceedings to court.

Saying she wanted to provide everyone with enough time to "reflect on the issues" regarding the legal application, Judge Smyth said she would review the case on September 27.

The Belfast Recorder then addressed Mr Rooney's family as they sat in the public gallery and said: "May I convey my condolences at this terrible tragedy.

"There are complex issues but I can tell you that I will be progressing this case as quickly as it can possibly be done."

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