A FARMER has ended up with a £30,000 court bill after a friend who was working for him died after he fell through a cow shed sky light.

Robert Latham, 64, of Knolton Farm at Overton, near Wrexham, admitted a health and safety charge following the tragedy in July of last year.

David Alan Rees, 56, of Ruabon, was clearing the roof of moss when he fell, North East Wales Magistrates Court was told.

Craig Morris, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said a ladder had been used to go up onto the roof to clear moss from the guttering but there was no safe system of work in place and he fell.

It was not known precisely when Mr Rees fell but he was found on the floor of the cowshed under the sky light.

An ambulance was called, he was taken to hospital but died of his injuries.

The prosecutor said that with the moss on the roof it was very difficult to identify where the sky lights were.

Mr Rees was a friend who worked for Latham on a casual basis.

He said Latham was in a position to control how the task of working at height was undertaken.

There were no measures in place to prevent him falling off the roof or through the sky light.

Mr Morris said there was a bucket with moss on the floor which indicated that Mr Rees had been up earlier to clear moss from the leaking guttering.

Mr Morris said it was a tragedy for everyone involved – for Latham as much as for Mr Rees' family.

There was not the slightest hint that Latham had any disregard for safety matters on the farm.

Barrister James Buchanan, defending, said it was a genuinely tragic case.

His client was man who was highly thought of in his community and within the farming community.

"This is not a case where an individual has instructed another to do a task he was not prepared to do himself," he said

"He thought he had a safe system of work in place. He didn't."

District Judge Gwyn Jones imposed a fine of £26,000 with costs of £3,922 and a £170 surcharge.

He accepted a payment offer of £500 a month.

The judge said it was a tragic accident in which a much loved friend and casual worker had lost his life.

He had worked at the farm for many years and also kept his collection of Minis which he was doing up in one of the farm buildings.

That day, with time on his hands, he decided to clear moss from the guttering and roof knowing that it needed doing, without being specifically asked or instructed to do so.

Latham himself had no opportunity to plan or supervise what was happening but it was accepted the system for working at heights was not robust enough to comply with the regulations.

The Mold court heard Latham had no previous convictions, steps had been taken to ensure such a thing would not happen again, there was a good safety record at the farm and he had totally co-operated with the HSE.

The judge said whatever punishment he imposed it could not reflect the pain and suffering caused to his loved ones and in the present case it had also affected Latham and his family deeply.

He added Mr Rees' family had been extremely courageous and dignified throughout.