A demolition worker regarded as the best in the country, but who fell to his death while dismantling a decommissioned gas rig, was 'given too much latitude' by the company which employed him, a court has heard.

Stephen Picken, 62, was cutting the rig with a colleague from a cherry picker in Great Yarmouth outer harbour in 2019 when a large piece of metal fell off and struck the platform, catapulting the men off.

Mr Picken, from Stoke-on-Trent, who specialised in cutting metal with oxy-propane equipment, was described as "highly regarded" and "the best in the country" at his job.

He died at the scene while his colleague Mark Kumar survived but suffered life-changing injuries.

An emergency vehicle leaving the scene of Stephen Picken's death at Great Yarmouth's outer harbour in October 2019.An emergency vehicle leaving the scene of Stephen Picken's death at Great Yarmouth's outer harbour in October 2019. (Image: Daniel Hickey)

READ MORE: Film of demolition worker's death at Great Yarmouth gas rig shown to courtroom

Veolia Environmental Services (UK) Ltd, which employed the two men, has admitted failing to ensure their health safety at work.

On Monday, July 1, the company's sentencing hearing continued at Ipswich Crown Court with defence counsel submitting mitigating factors. 

The court heard that the company had "apologised sincerely for the incident" and that it had "taken these events extremely seriously".

Before the incident, Mr Picken had been on holidays for three weeks, during which time all work was suspended at the site in Great Yarmouth, the court was told. 

Counsel said there could not be "a starker example" of a company taking health and safety seriously than stopping work because their "top man" was away.

READ MORE: 'Exceptional' worker fell to his death at harbour site

The court also heard that Mr Picken was "hugely, highly regarded" at his job - but that during the incident in 2019, Veolia had "allowed him too much latitude" while carrying out the work and "placed too much reliance on his experience".

"We let ourselves down on this occasion, we fell short of our own standards," counsel said. 

It was submitted to the court that the company had "medium culpability" relating to Mr Picken's death.

Judge Martyn Levett adjourned the case until July 22 when he will deliver his ruling and sentencing remarks.