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FIRE SERVICE MANAGERS NOT GUILTY OF MANSLAUGHTER

Chief fire officer condemns decision to press criminal charges over deaths

Two senior fire officers have been found not guilty of the manslaughter of four fire fighters who died whilst tackling a blaze at a Warwickshire warehouse in 2007. The men who died were Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley, Ian Reid and John Averis.

Incident commanders Timothy Woodward (Station Manager), aged 51, and Adrian Ashley (Watch Manager), aged 45, denied manslaughter by gross negligence at Stafford Crown Court. The jury took over seven hours to acquit both men after hearing six weeks of evidence about the deaths of the four firefighters.

Fire officers treated like common criminals

Graeme Smith, Warwickshire Chief Fire officer said the defendants were “treated like common criminals” and called for the Home Office and Ministry of Justice to investigate how and why the prosecution was allowed to proceed. 

Det Supt Ken Lawrence, of Warwickshire Police said the investigation had been the “right thing” to do. He added:

“I promised that we would do everything we could to determine how the four men died and to find answers for their families and loved ones. I believe that we have done that.”

Lee Howell, President of the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), said:

“Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of our fallen colleagues. We remain keen to understand the rationale behind the decision to take this prosecution and we question the length of time it took to come to trial.” 

In January the fire authority, Warwickshire County Council, pleaded guilty at Wolverhampton Crown Court to a health and safety charge relating to the blaze.

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