A Chesterfield pub operator has been forced to pay £24,000 and its director sentenced to a thirteen week prison sentence, suspended for a year, after being found guilty of flouting health and safety laws in a case brought by Chesterfield Borough Council.
St. Helen’s Public House Ltd, on Sheffield Road, and director, Andrew Little were convicted at Derby Crown Court on Wednesday 22 February of offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act after offences carried out in 2015.
The Court heard that from between February 2015 and July 2015 the cellar door in the pub had had its padlock removed putting customers at risk. This followed a fatal accident in November 2014 when a customer had entered the same unlocked cellar door.
Mr Little, who was responsible for health and safety at the pub, had carried out a risk assessment before the accident had happened which stated that the cellar door must be locked when not in use.
The court heard that a padlock was put on the door after the 2014 incident but was removed in February 2015 because the process of locking and unlocking the cellar door was causing delays in bringing stock into the pub.
Although additional steps were taken to prevent the risk to customers, including warning signs, a keypad lock was not fitted until July 2015 after environmental health officers carried out an inspection at the pub.
Recorder Benjamin Nicholls, sentencing the defendants, concluded that Andrew Little had placed commercial expediency before the safety of customers despite the warning provided by the earlier death.
In imposing a prison sentence on Mr Little he stated that those who gamble with people’s lives must expect imprisonment but agreed to suspend the sentence in light of a previously good health and safety record.
Councillor Chris Ludlow, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing said: “We brought this prosecution as a result of serious health and safety failings relating to the use of the cellar door.
“Sadly it appears that Andrew and Katrina Little chose to put speed and efficiency ahead of the safety of their customers. This is all the more surprising given that it came shortly after a fatal accident at the pub.
“We will continue to carry out inspections of premises and do all we can to ensure the safety of our residents.”
Mr Little was convicted for his part in the pub company’s failure to do all that it could reasonably do to prevent the risk posed to customers of entering the cellar door. He was given a custodial sentence of 13 weeks, suspended for a year.
The company was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £12,000 towards the costs of the prosecution.
The company and Mr Little were acquitted of a further health and safety at work offence which related to the fatal accident in November 2014.