The owners of Clogher Mart have been fined for a safety breach, relating to the death of an elderly farmer, who succumbed to injuries after an incident involving a bullock.

In a highly emotive gesture immediately after the fine was imposed, management of Clogher Valley Livestock Producers Limited in attendance, shook hands with the victim’s widow and family and repeated their apologies for the “monumental tragedy”.

Eighty-year-old Harry McAnespie suffered severe head trauma in the incident on June 23, 2018. He was air-lifted to hospital but passed away during the early hours of the following day.

The Health & Safety Executive commenced an investigation which led to proceedings against Clogher Mart.

Originally the company faced two charges  of failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare both of employees as well as non-employed persons, who may be affected by exposure to risks.

At Dungannon Crown Court last month, the company accepted admitted failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of non-employed persons.

Prosecution counsel Simon Reid said this was acceptable and the remaining matter could be left on the court books.

Judge Paul Ramsey QC adjourned for Victim Impact Statements.

On return today (Friday) Mr Reid explained on the day in question a bull in a holding pen, tried to jump the gate which “flew open”. Mr McAnespie was standing behind the gate which struck him, knocking him off his feet and sustaining a head injury.

He had been accompanied that day by his son and 12-year-old grandchild, both who remain “very affected” by his death.

A Health and Safety Executive examination found, “The gate was difficult to latch …the bolt was slightly bent, preventing the shaft being driven home … It was not maintained to a sufficient standard.”

Mr Reid agreed with Judge Ramsey that the company had “an impeccable record” and this was the first incident in 60 years of trading.

Described by the company as a long-standing, highly respected customer, defence counsel Mr Frank O’Donohoe QC expressed his clients’ apologies to Mr McAnespie’s widow and family.

Mr O’Donohoe  said, “Regrettably, this was a freak accident, with catastrophic consequences. An out of control bull was rampaging in a highly controlled area.… Systems were in place but were not rigorously enforced …The court could be satisfied this was a lapse.”

He continued: “This has had a devastating effect which goes to the heart of the farming community.”

It was emphasised the premises had been fully risk assessed by the Ulster Farmers Union and were in good condition with well-established systems, but: “The problem is, the system was not adhered to at that time. “

Concluding Mr Donohoe repeated his clients’ regret adding “Proper systems are now rigorously enforced … … This is not a case of corporate manslaughter … The company have worked with the Health and Safety Exertive throughout.”

Judge Ramsey referred to : “The monumental human tragedy in the middle of this case.”

He commended the dignity of Mr McAnespie’s family during the proceedings, noting some, “Were present that fateful day”.

Married for 54 years, and father to four children and four grandchildren, the judge noted one grandchild was born six months after Mr McAnespie’s death, and named ‘Harry’ after him.

Reading from a victim impact statement provided by Mr McAnespie’s widow, Judge Ramsey said; “He was a family man who rarely missed going to the Mart. It was part of his life … (Mrs McAnespie’s) describes him as ‘a big miss’, especially at family occasions.”

It was noted following the incident there was initially no sense of danger, as Mr McAnespie was conscious, talking and aware he had been injured.

Around an hour later it became apparent he was seriously injured, and  was air-lifted to hospital, where the family were told nothing could be done.

Mr McAnespie passed away, “Thankfully peacefully, surrounded by his family.”

Judge Ramsey took on board the company’s remorse, guilty plea, previously impeccable safety record, full co-operation the investigation, and “Genuine efforts to remedy defects, to ensure such a terrible tragedy never happened again.

He imposed a fine of £12,500.

When the case ended, all company management in attendance walked to the opposite side of the courtroom and shook hands with the victim’s widow and family.