Adam Farrer from No5 Chambers acts for HSE in care-home company prosecution

In November 2014, Adam Farrer from No5 Chambers acted for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the prosecution of a care-home company (a charity owning 15 care homes) at Cardiff Crown Court. The case concerned a fatal accident that saw a 92-year-old female resident of the Brocastle Manor Care Home fall 7m from her first-floor bedroom window, causing her death.

All windows in the care home were fitted with restrictors, which were intended to restrict the windows opening to 10cm. However, the restrictors could be disengaged by pressing a button, as opposed to the requiring a key (or tool) to unlock the restrictors and open the windows fully.

During the night of 5 November 2010, the deceased lady disengaged the restrictor and accidentally fell from the fully open window. The defendant (represented by John Cooper QC) entered a guilty plea to a section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA) offence but argued the breach was non-causative. The basis of plea was not accepted and a three-day trial of the issue was held.

HHJ Bidder QC rejected the defence basis of plea and found that the breach was causative of the death. Further, the judge found that the defendant had failed to act on a clear warning from its then manager, given shortly after the care home opened in September 2008, as to the danger of death to a resident falling out of a window posed by the overridable restrictors. The judge imposed a fine of £96,000 (£120,000 less 20 per cent credit for the plea) plus costs of £100,000.