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MANAGEMENT AND GROSS NEGLIGENCE MANSLAUGHTER

Operational managers face manslaughter charges after fire-fighter deaths

Three Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service managers are to face manslaughter by gross negligence charges following the deaths of four firefighters at a warehouse in Atherstone-on-Stour in 2007. The defendants will appear at Leamington Spa Magistrates’ Court on 1 April 2011.

In addition, Warwickshire County Council will face a charge under the HSW Act 1974 Section 2 alleging a failure to ensure the safety of employees. Nine other individuals were investigated but have now been told there was insufficient evidence to take any action against them.

Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley died in a fire at the premises of Wealmoor (Atherstone) Ltd on 2 November 2007.

Defendants responsible for operational decisions

Crown Prosecution Service Special Crime Division reviewing lawyer Michael Gregory, said:

“Following a thorough investigation by Warwickshire Police and HSE, I have reviewed the evidence in this case very carefully and I have decided that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to charge Paul Simmons, Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward with gross negligence manslaughter.

All acted as incident commanders before, during and after their colleagues were sent into the burning building. In that role they were responsible for making the operational decisions while their colleagues tried to put out the fire.

I have also decided that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against Warwickshire County Council for failing to protect the health and safety of its employees and that it is in the public interest to prosecute.

I send my sincere condolences to the families of these four men who died in such terrible circumstances.”

Comment

This announcement is a reminder of the real risks faced by firefighters and the need to strike the balance between operational and health and safety duties in the Fire and Rescue Services.

It also highlights the responsibilities faced by directors and managers taking operational decisions, particularly in high hazard sectors such as construction.

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