HICP Limited and Interstate United Kingdom Management Limited have been fined £159,940, after a successful prosecution brought by ourselves, following the collapse of a staircase at a Hemel Hempstead wedding venue.
On Wednesday 22 September 2021, Peterborough Magistrates’ Court imposed penalties totalling £159,940 on HICP Limited and Interstate United Kingdom Management Limited for safety failures leading to the injury of wedding party guests.
The incident occurred in 2017, when a wedding was held at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Breakspear Way, Hemel Hempstead.
The relatives and friends of the couple were told to assemble on exterior wooden stairs for photographs. Although those stairs were regularly used, including for weddings photos, they had not been properly maintained, and the timber had become very rotten.
The posts holding up the stairs were particularly rotted. They were made of laminated softwood not suited for use outdoors, especially without thorough maintenance.
Guests had gathered on the stairs for photos, with more about to join in, when the upper flight of stairs collapsed like a trap door, with part of the stairs and 10 people standing on that part falling down onto the hard courtyard below. Seven of those who fell were hospitalised, two with long-term injuries.
Upon examination by investigators and timber experts, the staircase and adjoining large wooden balcony area were found to be rotten in many places, and parts of the rotten areas had been inappropriately filled with foam filler, or with solid filler which had been painted over. Fingers or ballpoint pens could readily be poked into or through
the wood in places, and there was a danger of the structure collapsing.
In sentencing, the court reduced the penalties to reflect the impact of COVID-19 on hospitality companies’ finances and to reflect the defendants’ previous good character and early guilty pleas.
HICP Limited, whose hotel it had been since spring 2015, was ordered to pay a fine, costs and surcharge totalling more than £110,000. Interstate United Kingdom Management Limited, which assisted HICP in the management of the hotel, was ordered to pay penalties of almost £50,000.
Cllr Julie Banks, our Portfolio Holder for Community and Regulatory Services, said: “I consider the safety of local residents and visitors to be an imperative. We will vigorously investigate and take appropriate enforcement action where serious safety failings lead to serious injuries or deaths. All those involved in running businesses and operations should understand that they may face prosecution for their part in such failings, as the two companies did here, facing substantial penalties, despite the allowance rightly made for the impact of COVID on hotel businesses in recent times."
Our Food, Health and Safety Lead Officer, Rebecca Connolly, who investigated the incident, said: “Those who operate premises, which they charge the public to use, are required by law to put in place adequate arrangements to monitor the state of those premises and to ensure necessary repair or replacement work is identified and done. External timber structures are notoriously subject to decay and regular and rigorous checks on them need to be conducted by persons competent to do those checks."