In our previous bulletin we reported on the prosecution of Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd, the owners of Warwick Castle, following the death of George Townley, a member of the public, who tripped and fell over a parapet wall. Merlin was found guilty of breach of section 3(1) HSWA and breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Fines of £300k and £50k were imposed for each offence respectively. Merlin appealed the sentence on the basis that the fine did not fairly reflect the offences given the lack of aggravating features.

The CoA held that the trial judge was entitled to conclude that there had been a serious breach of Merlin’s health and safety systems and that the breach had exposed a large number of people (in particular children) to risk over a number of years. The appeal judges stated: “If a risk assessment had been carried out, then barriers would have been erected, the obvious risk of serious injury would have been eliminated and Mr Townley’s death would have been avoided.” Since Merlin chose not to provide the court with evidence of its finances, the trial judge was entitled to infer that it was able to pay any penalty that he chose to impose.