Eastbourne Pier death: Three sentenced by court

The partner of a man who fell to his death from Eastbourne Pier has said she feels no animosity towards two of his colleagues who pleaded guilty to health and safety offences.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 12:45 pm
Stephen Penrice, who died following a fall while working to help repair fire-damaged Eastbourne Pier SUS-140821-152319001
Stephen Penrice, who died following a fall while working to help repair fire-damaged Eastbourne Pier SUS-140821-152319001

Workman Stephen Penrice, 44, from Sandylonning, Netherton, Cumbria, was working on the pier in August 2014 after it had been badly damaged by a fire three weeks beforehand.

An air ambulance landed at the scene shortly after the incident at 4pm on August 19, 2014, but he was sadly declared dead at the scene.

In April 2019, following a joint investigation with the Health and Safety Executive, Michael Hawkins, 36, a company director of The Promenade, Maryport, Cumbria, was charged with gross negligence manslaughter and two counts of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Michael John HAWKINS

Paul Dixon, 52, a construction worker of Newton Drive, Blackpool, Lancashire, was also charged with gross negligence manslaughter and failure to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

They appeared at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on May 16, 2019 and a trial was initially set for April 2020, but was delayed by the Covid outbreak and eventually opened on January 12 this year.

However, during the trial, the judge ordered that the gross negligence manslaughter charges against both men should be discontinued.

Mr Penrice’s employer, MPM North West Ltd, of Victoria Place, Carlisle, Cumbria, was also charged with two counts of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in respect of the safety of workers on the pier.

Paul Andrew DIXON

On March 19, Michael Hawkins was fined £500, Paul Dixon was fined £2,500 and MPM North West Limited was fined £50,000.

Detective Inspector Duncan Elliott said, “This was a tragedy that could have been avoided and Health and Safety Legislation exists to keep people safe at work and it is essential that companies and individuals recognise their responsibilities.”

Stephen’s partner, Shannon Gartland, issued a tribute following the conclusion of the case.

She said, “I am honoured and proud to say that I was Stephen’s partner for over 22 years. Apart from being partners, we were also best friends and on that fateful day a beautiful heart stopped beating. Not only did the light in my life go out, he took my heart with him.

“Stephen was a massively loved partner and stepdad, though he never got to meet his beautiful granddaughter and she never got to meet him.

“He loved all sports and played rugby and football for local teams and he loved his horse racing. He would meet up with Michael Hawkins every other Friday when he finished work and came back home to Maryport.

“I have no animosity towards Michael or Paul Dixon, because I know how much Stephen thought of them and life is too short. I wish them both well.”

Stephen’s mother Winnie said, “Stephen, or Penny to his friends, was a strong but gentle man, who had a big heart and enjoyed life to the full. He was well known and well liked within his home town of Maryport and had made many new friends in Eastbourne, where he was working when his life tragically ended on August 19 2014.

“With so much life still to live, Stephens death at the age of only 44 has left a gaping hole in our lives, with the anguish of his loss being compounded by the defendants also being his long term friends. We know they too were distraught at what happened that day, but no one should go to work and never come home.

“This happened to Stephen whilst under their care and to help us move forward we just wanted to understand why. To that end we thank the police and HSE for their diligent work. We would also like to thank the people of Eastbourne who gave their support in the aftermath of this tragedy.

“Stephen was taken from us far too early and is sorely missed. No outcome here can change that or make the loss more bearable, but we can at least hope that lessons learned will help prevent other families from suffering as we have.”