Two Swedish firms fined a total of £1m last week over the fatal collapse of a walkway at the Port of Ramsgate in 1994 may refuse to pay the penalties.
`I do not rule out any position on this,’ said Stefan Mattsson, the managing director of the group that includes FEAB and FKAB, the two companies that designed and built the walkway.
The Swedes were not represented at the trial in the Central Criminal Court, although they both pleaded not guilty to the single charge under the Health & Safety at Work Act.
The judge gave FEAB and FKAB 28 days to pay their respective fines of £750,000 and £250,000, plus £251,500 costs.
Mattsson would only say that it was an issue the company would `attend to with our Swedish and English lawyers’.
Six people died and eight others were injured in the accident.
The Health & Safety Executive, which brought the prosecution, confirmed that there was no way to enforce the fines on a foreign company with no UK assets to sequester.
However, both companies could be barred in effect from trading in the UK, as any goods shipped here could be seized in lieu of unpaid fines.
The only explanation Mattsson offered for his stance was that FEAB, FKAB and their insurers had already made compensation arrangements with some of the third parties involved.
`We have contributed to those who suffered.’ But he also insisted: `We want of course to solve everything in a proper way.’
The two companies seem certain to face further civil claims on the back of the criminal conviction. At least one firm of solicitors was said to be `waiting in the wings’.
The Port of Ramsgate was also fined £200,000 with £219,500 costs for breaching the HSWA and Dock Regulations, while Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, which certified the structure, was fined £500,000 with £252,500 costs.
This is the first criminal charge that Lloyd’s has faced since being founded in 1760.
By Andrew Cavenagh