Care home firm fined £120k after cellar death near Oswestry
A company which ran a care home near Oswestry where a wheelchair-bound pensioner died after falling down steps to a cellar has been fined £120,000.
Michael Ibbetson, aged 83, suffered a fatal head injury when he fell down the brick-built flight of stairs at The Court nursing and residential home in West Felton.
Akari Care, which ran the care home, denied two allegations of breaching health and safety regulations.
But a jury at Shrewsbury Crown Court yesterday delivered a unanimous guilty verdict on both counts, following a trial.
During the trial, prosecutor James Puzey said Mr Ibbetson, a former quarry worker, could not be located by staff on the evening of February 15, 2015, sparking a search of the grounds.
The pensioner, who had his right leg below his knee amputated and used a wheelchair, was found at the foot of the stairs of the cellar.
Unsuccessful attempts were made to resuscitate him and Mr Ibbetson was found to have fractured his skull.
The prosecution was brought by the Health & Safety Executive, which said the door to the cellar did not always lock properly.
The court heard a keypad was used to access the cellar and the door was fitted with a self-closing mechanism, but investigations found it did not always shut properly.
Following the accident, changes were made which included installing a new handrail, door and lock.
Mr James Leonard, defending, said the tragic death was due to an accident.
Sentencing the company, Judge Peter Barrie said he accepted the firm had taken some safety measures and that the door was inspected regularly, with nobody finding a problem with the lock before the accident.
He said he also took into consideration that the firm had no previous convictions, it had fully cooperated and steps were taken to remedy problems.
But he added that the cellar stairs had been steep, the handrail had not been easy to use and leaving the cellar was a tricky process.
Judge Barrie said: "It is an accident which could and should have been prevented."
He fined the company £120,000 and ordered the firm to pay £41,997.48 costs.
Mr Ibbetson had been at the care home since 2013, joining his wife Dorothy who was also a resident.
In a statement following the case, Mr Ibbetson's son and daughter, Steven Ibbetson and Nicola Smart, said: "We are very happy with the jury's unanimous verdict and all the representation we had.
"It was a fair sentence."
They said yesterday was also the second anniversary of their mother's death, adding: "It's been a hard day."
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