A FOREST businessman responsible for a health and safety breach that led to one of his workers being fatally injured by a tyre-shredding machine has been sentenced to a suspended six months jail term.

Kyle Gettings, 35, was also ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work and to pay a £2,500 fine and £3,000 costs by instalments of £500 a month after admitting he failed to discharge his duty to ensure the health and safety of employees at his Capital Metals company workshop in Sling.

Mr Martin Simmons died a fortnight after his arm was trapped in a tyre-shredding machine.

Before passing sentence, Judge William Hart heard moving victim impact statements from Mr Simmons’ mother Janet and his partner, Tina, who told of their heartbreak at losing him – and the trauma of seeing him in intensive care until he died on March 6 2019.

Mr Simmons’ mother, who has three younger children, stated “To see him connected to all the life support equipment was so very, very difficult.

“I was hoping he would make a recovery but that was not to be.”

She described the nightmare experience of losing her son as a ‘heartbreak’.

She stated. “He was a lovely person who was loved by so many people, a very popular man.’’

She had been touched, she said, by the many messages of condolence she had received following his death.

“Martin was a very hard working person who had enjoyed his job despite it leaving him filthy with dirt falling from his clothing.”

Mr Simmons’ mother said: “All my other children are also grieving for him – I don’t know what to say or do to make them feel better.

“I love and miss him so very much.

“Words cannot describe the pain this has caused. Sitting in intensive care for 15 days while he was surrounded with wires and machines everywhere, being told finally to hold him one last time, hearing him choking on his last breath. It was a nightmare.”

She said she had felt unable to return to the Forest of Dean after his death.

“Mr Gettings gets to go home,” she said “He stole my Martin’s life.”

Gettings, of Marten Road, Chepstow, had been accused of the manslaughter of 38-year-old Mr Simmons by gross negligence but was found not guilty of that charge by a jury at Gloucester Crown Court last month.

He was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on Friday (October 7) for the health and safety breach, which he had admitted from the outset of his trial.

The jury heard at last month’s trial that the shredding machine had only just been installed at the factory.

Mr Simmons’s arm became trapped between a roller and a pulley on a conveyor belt of the machine on February 20, 2019.

He was treated at the unit by paramedics and then airlifted to Southmead Hospital in Bristol where he died on March 6.

Prosecutor Phillip Stott outlined eight areas of fault – the principal one being that there was no safety guard on the machine.

“We say that was the direct cause of the accident,” he said.

Other factors were that there was no emergency stop provision, no facility for isolation or lock-off of the machine, no technical advice or operating manual, and insufficient risk assessment.

Training had been provided but it had omitted issues which ought to have been addressed.

Mr Stott said “We say failure to guard the machine was a flagrant disregard of the law.  We say that puts it into a very high culpability category.”

Mr Stott asked the court to consider disqualifying Gettings from being a company director because the death had arisen from his failure to comply with his legal duties.

Kate Brunner KC, defending, said she recognised that Mr Simmons’ death was avoidable and Gettings accepted that he was at fault.

She said: “He has expressed his great sorrow about what happened in a letter to Your Honour. It is right that I repeat that sorrow and regret now, in front of his family.”

There were three references on behalf of Gettings and a psychological report. His wife and brother were with him in court, she said.

“He is keen to stress that he did not realise what danger was being created by his acts.”

Judge Hart commented that, had the drive belt on the machine been cut quickly, the death of Mr Simmons could have been avoided. In hindsight, he said, that should have been given the advice given but he did not wish to make any criticism of the emergency services who were concerned he might suffer a catastrophic bleed if it was cut

He said: “Having seen the machinery in detail during the trial it certainly did not fall into the category of a bad accident waiting to happen.”

Ms Brunner said that since the tragedy Gettings had proved himself a worthy company director, taking enormous care “to do what he accepts should have been done from the outset, obtaining the right advice and putting that advice into action.”

The judge told Gettings that the sentence he was passing could in no way reflect the value of Mr Simmons life.

“All involved in this case, and I include you, will feel the deepest sympathy for his partner Tina and his mother Janet,” said the judge. “Their victim personal statements were so moving.

He told Gettings: “I didn’t know him but I have heard nothing but good about him and you have never sought to say anything to his discredit.

“You committed this offence because of neglect. There is no suggestion it was other than that.  I regard this as a medium culpability case although somewhat higher than the standard medium culpability, if I can invent that definition.

“An adequate risk assessment would have identified that guarding that was required.

“I accept that you believed that the machinery and processes were safe and that is to a degree evidenced by the fact that you used it in front of a film company.

“Mr Simmons was not a person that anyone would have expected to take short cuts. He was a sensible responsible man. He was a solid reliable person and that I think added to the belief you had that the process was safer than it was.

“I do not regard you as someone who was oblivious to health and safety circumstances or cavalier.

“You faced a homicide charge and the jury acquitted you and that must have been a considerable stress and strain. You have worked hard in the last three years and your companies now support 14 employees.

“You are a man with family responsibilities. I have read very carefully the references from your wife, who has a medical condition and that is of course a massive burden on you and on her.

“You are a family man. It is clear you have taken proper steps to ensure the health and safety in your current business and enterprises.

“The sentence after trial would have been nine months. Your guilty plea reduces that to six months. It will always seem to anyone who has lost a loved one that a suspended sentence for a health and safety offence is a very poor reflection of the suffering they have all gone through.

“But if I were to impose six months imprisonment immediately other people would suffer more than you.

“I have come to the view that the right course here is to suspend the sentence. I believe that to disqualify you from being a company director would be inappropriate, counter-productive and disproportionate.

“I have watched you carefully. I regard you as someone who is genuinely remorseful for why what happened.

“I believe you do bear the burden of responsibility.

“It is easy for relatives to feel it is all an act and you have got away with it but I don’t think that is true.

“All those affected by this tragedy have my greatest sympathy.”