Following a three month trial, M&S and their two contractors, Willmott Dixon Construction and PA Realisations
(formerly Pectel) were found guilty of breaching health and safety laws during a refurbishment at stores in
Reading and Bournemouth which involved the removal of ceiling tiles containing asbestos. The court heard
that to allow the store to open each day, the contractors were forced to work overnight removing small
sections of asbestos each time. Whilst M&S had produced internal guidance on safe asbestos removal, the HSE
argued that parts were not up to standard, and the guidance was being applied in unsuitable ways. M&S also
failed to ensure that their guidance was followed by the contractors. Both M&S and Willmott Dixon were found
guilty of breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) HSWA with P A Realisations convicted of an offence under Regulation
15 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations.
When sentencing took place earlier this week, judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC was very critical of the
management of M&S, a “household name” who had been accused of turning a blind eye to the problems. The
judge stated “There was systematic failure on behalf of M&S management. There has been no hint of a proper
full apology for what happened.”
- M&S were fined £1m (£500k for each offence) and £600k prosecution costs.
- The main contractors for the Reading refurbishment (Styles & Wood Limited) who had contracted specialist
- contractors (P A Realisations) had pleaded guilty to section 2(1) and 3(1) charges and were fined £100,000
- and £40,000 costs.
- Willmott Dixon, who had been responsible for monitoring the asbestos situation in the Bournemouth store
- was fined £50,000 and £75,000 costs.
- P A Realisations received a nominal £200 fine as they had since become insolvent.