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Council prosecution sees hotel chain fined £80,000 after guest sustains life-changing injury in fall

Sefton Council has successfully prosecuted Britannia Hotels after a guest at one of its hotels fell through rusted iron railings, sustaining life-changing injuries.

Sefton Magistrates Court heard that railings at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport – which were there to prevent people falling the 6ft drop to the basement lightwells – were missing in one location and badly corroded in numerous other areas. The council had issued an improvement notice after the company failed to make the area safe with suitable fencing over three weeks after the incident.

District Judge Wendy Lloyd fined Britannia Hotels £80,000 and awarded costs of £6,821.92.

Fiona Townsend, the council's Senior Lawyer, said that Britannia Hotels could not demonstrate that a system was in place to check and maintain the iron railing regularly. "Its risk assessments failed to address the hazard of a fall from height as happened to guest Deborah Henshall and did not refer to the iron railings," she added.

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Ms Townsend argued that the company "fell short of the appropriate safety and the systems it had in place were not sufficiently adhered to or implemented. It had failed to make appropriate changes following prior incident and had allowed breaches to continue over a long period".

She added: "This led to the incident, which has had a substantial and long-term effect on the Ms Henshall's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities or on their ability to return to work."

In a victim statement, Deborah Henshall told the court that she had sustained two spinal fractures, a broken left big toe and blood on her lungs due to sternum and rib fractures.

She said she was distressed over how her life had changed since the accident, before which she was working two jobs. She had since lost both jobs, Ms Henshall told the court, and is currently on Universal Credit and personal independent payments.

District Judge Wendy Lloyd said: "I take both Britannia's previously good character and guilty plea into account, but others were exposed to risk of falling into the lightwell, a number of people were potentially at risk.

"I extend great sympathy to Ms Henshall. This amount is in no way a representation of what I think her injury is worth. This is a fine on health and safety failings."

Britannia Hotels has been contacted for a statement.

Adam Carey

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