A company boss has avoided jail despite a “lackadaisical and unprofessional” approach to safety in which a man died in a human cannonball stunt.
Scott May who owns Stunts UK Ltd admitted Health & Safety breaches on behalf of himself and his company following the death of the stuntman who had been fired from a cannon.
The stunt boss was said to have shown a “flagrant disregard” for the law. The stuntman died when his safety net collapsed while he was still in mid-air.
The company was fined £100,000.
Mr May faced up to two years in prison but was instead handed a 12 month community order and told to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
The court heard a trigger mechanism that released the safety net was not properly set. The prosecution said that given the scale of the risk it amounted to a “flagrant disregard” of the law.
The prosecution added that while May had not deliberately breached his duty, he was responsible for safety and had “hands on control” the day the stuntman died.
Warning signs should have prompted May and his company to reconsider the stunt’s safety. Two previous “near misses” were referred to, including problems with the safety net’s tension and when a stuntman nearly hit the ground.
The court heard how the cannon’s powerful recoil accidently triggered the safety net’s quick-release mechanism, which was only meant to be activated once the stuntman was caught. The court was told the net collapsed as soon as the mechanism was triggered.
The company’s equipment was said to pose “an obvious risk” and its Health & Safety was described as “lackadaisical and unprofessional”.
The judge did though say the offence was committed “through omission rather than act”. The judge commented “What should have happened is somebody should have been instructed not just to give Health & Safety advice, but the actual specifics of the mechanism should have been investigated.”