Firm fined �12k for Neots Christmas lights collapse

THE firm at fault for the collapse of St Neots Christmas lights has been fined �12,000.

THE firm at fault for the collapse of St Neots Christmas lights has been fined �12,000.

London-based Broadlands (Builders) Ltd was responsible for fitting the eyebolts to hold the wires from which the 52kg decorations were suspended.

The decorations collapsed on November 29 2007, falling into St Neots High Street and bringing masonry and fixing weighing over 100kg with it.

Elena Giddens, 39 at the time of the incident and formerly of Eynesbury Manor in the town was knocked unconscious when masonry landed on her. She had five stitches to her head and suffered three broken ribs and a punctured lung.

Her friend, Anne Beck, then 35 and also of Eynesbury Manor, had been pushing her seven-month-old son, Myles, in his pram along the High Street. She dived on top of the pram to protect her son before she and Mrs Giddens pushed the pram away from the falling debris. She sustained three broken fingers and bruising to her arm, hand and back.

Company director John Fifield pleaded guilty at Huntingdon Magistrates’ Court today (Wednesday) to breaching section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

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Paul Hoskins, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, told the court that the bolts holding the decorations had been put in the wrong position on the side of the building.

Broadlands did not carry out a structural survey on the building and assumed that one had been done by the contractors, he said.

There had been an early warning sign as to the weakness of the building, when the bricks into which the bolt was fitted slid out by more than an inch, prompting the company to find a second location.

Mr Hoskins said: “A competent installer should have realised that this indicated weak mortar.

“Quite simply, the location for the eyebolts chosen by Broadlands Builders was not suitable.”

Ben Williams, representing Broadlands, said Mr Fifield had “lived and breathed” the accident since it happened, and was remorseful for what had happened.

He said the installers had not known the weight of the decorations to be hung on the bolts, but that he accepted and acknowledged culpability.

Magistrates fined Broadlands �12,000 and ordered the company to pay �4,250 costs and a �15 victim surcharge.

Presiding magistrate Henry Emblem said: “There is no evidence that profit was put before safety.”