London Borough of Camden has been fined £72,000 and ordered to pay costs of £65,000 following the death of a two year-old after being crushed by a wall blown over on a Council estate.
Camden Council pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The wall collapsed due to a previous defective repair. The repair work was subcontracted to Chattertons, who have since ceased to exist, though Camden Council was responsible for the work site. Judge Taylor described the overall inspection scheme operated by Camden council to be “wholly inadequate”.
Submissions for the Council centred on the appropriate approach to be taken when sentencing a public body. The Judge accepted that while the Sentencing Guidelines applied, case law made it clear that a different approach to sentencing applied in cases involving a public body. It was emphasised that in such a case, the Court should not be looking to ‘send a message home’ in the way it might do if the defendant was a corporate body whose aim was to maximise profit.
HSE inspector Michael La Rose commented that: “This tragic incident should serve as a reminder to all organisations to keep their building stock safe, including boundary walls.”. The case demonstrates the extent to which fines may be reduced where the offender is a public body.