A MAN has been jailed for exposing two builders to a potentially lethal asbestos to cut costs on a Winchester construction site.

Stephen Davies, director of The Cavendish Winchester Ltd, was sentenced to eight months in prison.

Southampton Crown Court heard how he employed John Mills and Stephen Mills to strip the inside of the former office building in Winnall Industrial Estate ahead of a project to convert it into student flats.

However the 59-year-old, of Chichester, West Sussex, failed to tell them that the building contained deadly asbestos. 

Davies' fellow company director Neil Bolton, 56, of Hillgrove, West Sussex, was given a suspended sentence of four months. Both men pleaded guilty. 

The court heard they got quotes of between £70,000 and £260,000 to remove the asbestos safely. The two builders cost a mere fraction of that, at £25,000. 

The waste was disposed of in 16 skips. The builders were not aware it was asbestos insulating board which the court heard is one of the most deadly forms of the material. 

Kate Harney, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, said: "The project was to renovate the centre to create student accommodation. The building had a very old asbestos management survey from 2010. It was not fit for purpose. 

"A more invasive survey was needed. That was made clear to the defendants on a number of occasions. They had expressed knowledge of the potential asbestos and how to manage that going forward. 

"Ten tonnes of asbestos was initially removed. None of the work was notified to the Health and Safety Executive."

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Ms Harney added that Davies was regularly on site for the five-week job in November 2019. Bolton was described as the "money man", in charge of the company's finances. 

Quentin Hunt, mitigating, told the court that the company was set-up solely for the construction project. He said: "The company was a special purposes vehicle for this project only. The project failed and the company has losses of £748,000. 

"The project was ill-fated. Both defendants accept their culpability. It was admittedly a cost-cutting measure."

Mr Hunt added that both men lost money on the project, with Davies putting in £190,000 and Bolton £125,000. 

Sentencing Davies, who has worked in the building trade for 40 years, Judge Peter Henry said: "Your deliberate decision to put workers in danger can only be met by a custodial sentence."

Davies was jailed for eight months, with no order for costs due to the custodial sentence. He remained motionless as the judge jailed him. 

Bolton was given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. He must also complete 250 hours of unpaid work within 12 months and pay costs of £5,123.70 within three months. The company was fined £30,000.