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UK Coal legal battle ends with guilty plea

UK Coal legal battle ends with guilty plea

The legal battle between UK Coal and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has ended with the former submitting a guilty plea.

A statement submitted by UK Coal's administrators, who are managing the organisation's move into liquidation, admitted liability for the death of miner Gerry Gibson at a Leeds Magistrates' Court trial.

Father-of-two Mr Gibson, from Leeds, was killed when 15 tonnes of rock from a roof section at the Kellingley colliery collapsed as a support machine was being operated.

The HSE launched an inquiry into the man's death and it was found a similar accident had happened just six days earlier but no action had been taken by bosses, who were fully aware of the incident.

Despite the clear dangers faced by workers in the face of the previous collapse, miners were told to carry on their job and enter the pit.

HSE inspectors concluded that Mr Gibson likely died of asphyxiation caused by a lack of oxygen, while another staff member - Philip Sheldon - was lucky to escape alive after being caught on the edge of the rock-slide.

Mr Sheldon has since made a full recovery but the HSE said it is unacceptable that workers were not fully aware of the dangers they faced because of the roof collapse six days earlier.

For this, the remaining assets of UK Coal were docked by £200,000 in fines, although no legal costs were charged as it was concluded this would have jeopardised payments into the Miners' Pensioners' coal allowance scheme.

In a statement released after the verdict, Mr Gibson's widow Brenda said: "Gerry enjoyed the camaraderie and the banter, where his clever wit, sense of humour, big heart and loving personality came across to everyone. 

"That is what made Gerry such a loveable man to everyone he met and why he has such an enormous number of friends and people who respected him. He easily made friends wherever he went and became a big part of the local community in Sherburn."

By Chris Stevenson