A wall collapse that killed three people in Melbourne has now attracted more than half a million dollars in fines for those involved.
Siblings Bridget and Alexander Jones and Frenchwoman Marie-Faith Fiawoo died after the freestanding brick wall fell onto Swanston Street in the CBD on March 28, 2013.
The company that put advertising signage on the wall, Aussie Signs Pty Ltd, was fined $250,000 in the County Court of Victoria on Thursday after pleading guilty to one charge of failing to ensure people were not exposed to risk.
“The breach by the company is of the most serious kind,” Judge David Parsons said.
Grocon Victoria Street Pty Ltd owned the site and commissioned the construction of the advertising cladding.
The 3.2m-high hoarding was up to 70cm taller than the brick wall it was attached to, the court heard.
The subsidiary of construction giant Grocon was also fined $250,000 after pleading guilty to failing to provide a safe workplace.
Aussie Signs’ defence lawyer had argued the company was in a “lesser position” than Grocon Victoria Street, but Judge Parsons did not agree.
“There is a broad equivalence of seriousness,” he said.
Prosecutors could not prove the wall would not have collapsed if the advertising hoarding had not been attached to it, but the hoarding increased the risk the wall would collapse, the court heard.
There were strong winds on the day of the fatal collapse, though the exact speed of it at the site was unknown.
Judge Parsons said Aussie Signs had not obtained a risk assessment in relation to wind loading, and did not get a structural engineer to assess the wall.
The sign company had also failed to ensure that Grocon Victoria Street had a building permit for the project.
He said Aussie Signs had been a “good corporate citizen” prior to the incident, and there was true remorse.
During a plea hearing last month, the company apologised to the loved ones of those killed, saying it wanted to acknowledge the deaths and extend its deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the three who died.
A subcontractor hired to attach cladding to the wall, Jonathon Westmoreland, was last year fined $7,500 after being found guilty of performing works without a building permit.
- 2008: The old Carlton and United Breweries site is bought, most of the former buildings have already been demolished
- The wall, constructed in 1971, was left free-standing
- 2011: The Grocon company gives Aussie Signs the green light to attach advertising hoarding
- A subcontractor, Jonathan Westmoreland, engaged to attach cladding, with Aussie Signs overseeing installation
- March 2013: The wall collapses, killing three people
- November 2014: Grocon Victoria Street Pty Ltd fined $250,000
- May 2015: Westmoreland fined $7,500
- Feb 2016: Aussie Signs Pty Ltd fined $250,000