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Electrican sentenced to 7 years imprisonment after pleading guilty to manslaughter and perjury following a workplace death

09 March 2018

 An electrican was sentenced last week to a total of seven (7) years imprisonment for manslaughter and perjury. He will be eligble for parole after two (2) years. 

Nathan Day was charged with manslaughter over the death of Jason Garrels, 20, on a construction site in Clermont on 27 February 2012. The perjury charge arose from the evidence provided during the subsequent coronial inquest. Those charges were brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions after the Coroner stated he had established a reasonable belief that offences had been committed which needed to be investigated further. The Coroner had found (findings delivered on 11 August 2015) that the wiring diagram, provided by Mr Day following the tragic incident, showed a number of deficiencies in compliance with the required Regulations known as the Wiring Rules. A key feature of the Coroner’s finding was whether a residual current device (RCD) or more commonly know as a “safety switch” had been installed. The Coroner formed the reasonable belief that there was no RCD installed, in the circumstances where:

  • The particular RCD [Mr Day stated was installed] was tested and found to be working properly such that it would have tripped the flow of electricity within 0.003 seconds. However, the evidence was that the electricity did not trip for approximately 3 seconds.
  • The re-creation of the construction switchboard, with the specific components Mr Day stated were used, could not be complete as the components did not fit.
  • The first component in the electrical phase to fail/blow was a fuse located in the Ergon transformer located across the road from the worksite.

In sentencing Mr Day, the Court noted:

  • There was a level of appreciation that he was not competent to carry out the electrical work he was contracted to perform, yet he still chose to perform it and in doing so put multiple people at risk, not only Mr Garrels.
  • The decision not to install an RCD was not a one off decision made in the spur of the moment, but rather the nature of his conduct in performing electrical work, that he did not have the requisite competency to perform, over a period of time.
  •  While it was apparent Mr Day was remorseful, it was tempered by his conduct during and after the incident, including the matters giving rise to the perjury charge.

This case gives rise to a question, had the charge of “Industrial Manslaughter” been in force at the time, would they have pursued a charge under that provision or under the Criminal Code, as they have done?

Further Reading