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Man found guilty of manslaughter of grandmother killed in gate tragedy

PUBLISHED: 07:50 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:08 14 September 2017

Robert Churchyard at Norwich Crown Court.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Robert Churchyard at Norwich Crown Court. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

A man who installed an iron gate which fell on a grandmother and crushed her to death has been found guilty of her manslaughter by gross negligence and warned he faces jail.

Family file handout photo issued by Norfolk Police of Jill Lunn, as Robert Churchyard, who installed an iron gate which fell on the grandmother and crushed her to death has been found guilty of her manslaughter by gross negligence.  Picture Family Handout/PA Wire  . Family file handout photo issued by Norfolk Police of Jill Lunn, as Robert Churchyard, who installed an iron gate which fell on the grandmother and crushed her to death has been found guilty of her manslaughter by gross negligence. Picture Family Handout/PA Wire .

Jill Lunn, 56, died in April 2013, when the automatic gate fell on her at her home in Blofield Heath, near Norwich, in what the court was told was a “wholly preventable tragedy.”

Robert Churchyard, 52, denied her manslaughter but was convicted by a jury at Norwich Crown Court after one hour and 15 minutes of deliberation.

The gate, which weighed around a third of a tonne was installed in March 2013, but without any stopping devices to prevent it falling if it was operated manually.

The jury heard that Mrs Lunn had pulled into the drive, with her grandchild in the car, and tried to close the gate using the remote control.

Andrew Jackson, prosecuting, said when it would not work she tried to shut the gate manually and it had fallen directly on top of her and crushed her to death.

Mr Jackson said the tragedy could have easily been prevented by means of a simple stopping device either to the gate or to the track upon which the gate ran.

He said the tragedy was “wholly preventable” and said that Churchyard’s actions amounted to gross negligence.

Churchyard, of Turner Road, Norwich, was found guilty of an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act at a separate earlier trial.

Churchyard had worked for Automated Garage Doors and Gates Ltd at the time and was an experienced fitter.

At an earlier hearing the company admitted three counts of failing to comply with a requirement under the Supply of Machinery (Safety) regulations but sentencing was adjourned until the outcome of these proceedings against Churchyard.

Churchyard was bailed until October 30 when he is due to be sentenced along with the company.

Judge Stephen Holt told Churchyard: “This is a very serious matter and a custodial sentence seems highly likely in this case.”

Churchyard, who was dressed in a grey suit, showed no reaction as he left the courtroom.

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