Health and safety legislation requires that premises are kept safe for both employees and visitors alike. When someone is injured in an accident as a result of a failure by the property managers to maintain premises in a safe condition, they can be prosecuted under criminal law.

Clearly, there are times when premises have been allowed to remain in an obviously dangerous state and in such circumstances a prosecution is normally successful. However, in many cases, the position is less clear cut and in these circumstances the issue will be decided on whether or not the injury happened as a result of a normal risk of everyday life.

In a recent case, a school headmaster appealed against his conviction under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The case involved a three-year-old child who fell down steps at the school and sustained a head injury. The child contracted MRSA in hospital and died.

The case turned on whether the risk to which the child had been exposed (i.e. falling down the steps) was a real risk which was caused by the conduct of the school. The Court of Appeal found that it was not and so the headmaster’s conviction was overturned.