THE director of a firm fined £600,000 following the death of a seven-year-old boy at a Barnsley construction site has spoken for the first time.

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said Howard Civil Engineering made a ‘serious dereliction of duty’ as they were sentenced following the death of young Conley Thompson seven years ago.

The seven-year-old was reported missing to police on July 26, 2015, when he didn’t return to his Worsbrough home after playing with his friends.

Despite extensive search efforts, Conley was not located that night but the following morning he was found dead inside a 23-cm-wide plastic pipe on a building site, off Bank End Road.

The firm pleaded guilty to two charges failing, as an employer, to ensure that persons not in its employment are not exposed to risks to heir health and safety and failing to ensure that necessary steps were taken to prevent access by unauthorised persons to a construction site at Barnsley Magistrates’ Court in March.

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Earlier this month at Sheffield Crown Court, they were fined £600,000 - reduced from £950,000 due to their early guilty plea - and will be forced to pay the first £150,000 instalment in the next 28 days.

The ‘humiliated’ director, Michael Howard, said: “Conley’s death was a tragic accident, and our thoughts and condolences remain with his family, who have suffered an unimaginable loss.

“We hope that the conclusion of this process can at least go some way in providing everyone affected by this tragedy with some resolution.

“In its evidence, the Health and Safety Executive highlighted the good safety record of Howard Civil Engineering and the fact that the business has not been subject to any previous convictions.

“However, we fully recognise that in this instance the perimeter fencing around our site had become damaged and inadequate over time.

“We have engaged fully with the Health and Safety Executive throughout its inquiry and in the seven years since this incident occurred have put in place several measures to ensure the perimeter integrity of all of our sites.

“We will continue to ensure that health and safety is at the heart of how we operate.”