A wall in Melbourne which collapsed killing three people had threatened the lives of everyone who walked past it, a magistrate says.

Grocon Victoria Street has been fined $250,000 for its role over the fatal wall collapse in Swanston Street in March last year.

The Grocon subsidiary pleaded guilty to failing to ensure a safe workplace.

Magistrate Charles Rozencwajg said the company’s failure had placed the lives of many people at risk and ultimately ended three lives.

The court earlier heard Grocon had contracted Aussie Signs to attach advertising hoarding to the wall, which the prosecution said increased the chances of the wall collapsing but did not it.

Mr Rozencwajg said a risk assessment would likely have indicated the wall was at risk of collapsing within six to 12 months with the advertising hoarding, compared to five to 10 years without it.

“The tragic circumstances of the wall collapse remain relevant to assessing the seriousness of the risk,” he said on Friday.

“It placed every member of the public who walked along that section of Swanston Street at risk of injury or death.”

Teenage Melbourne siblings Alexander and Bridget Jones and Frenchwoman Marie-Faith Fiawoo, 33, were killed when a 15-metre section of brick wall fell onto Swanston Street in the CBD in March last year.

Mr Rozencwajg said Grocon Victoria Street’s failure to act was well below other examples where deaths had occurred as a result of companies avoiding taking action despite knowing the risk to the public.

But he said the fact it had still failed was implicit in its guilty plea.

“The act requires persons to be proactive in eliminating risk,” he said.

“It is not a duty that can be subcontracted to a company like Aussie Signs.”

Mr Rozencwajg also said while Grocon Victoria Street claimed it was a development and marketing company, its staff had experience in the construction industry and would have had access to safety procedures.

He said it had taken positive steps in introducing new safety procedures since March last year, including introducing third party inspections and workplace risk assessments.

“The company has acted in a manner expected of a good corporate citizen,” he said.

The maximum fine Grocon faced in the Melbourne Magistrates Court was $305,000 compared to $1.1 million had the case been heard in the Victorian County Court.

Mr Rozencwajg said had the company not pleaded guilty he would have fined it $350,000.


By Karen Sweeney