A takeaway boss has won an appeal to quash a manslaughter conviction that followed the death of a 15-year-old girl who suffered an allergic reaction to a meal containing peanut proteins.
Mohammed Abdul Kuddus was handed a two-year jail sentence in November 2018 in relation to the death of Megan Lee, who died from an asthma attack after eating food from the Royal Spice in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire.
But Court of Appeal judges, sitting in London on Thursday, quashed his “unsafe” conviction for gross negligence manslaughter.
The court had heard that Lee and a friend had ordered a meal from the takeaway through Just Eat and written “prawns, nuts” in the comment section. Despite this the food delivered contained peanut proteins, which triggered a severe allergic reaction. The teenager died in hospital two days later on New Year’s Day 2017.
Kuddus, the sole director of the takeaway, who also worked there as a chef, was convicted of manslaughter by a jury at Manchester Crown Court in October last year, along with manager Harun Rashid, who had previously sold the business to him.
Judge Brian Leveson announced that the conviction in relation to Kuddus would be overturned. He said Megan’s order, including the comment about nuts and prawns, was seen by Rashid, but that there was “no evidence” that the order printout or comments on her order were “seen by or passed on to” Kuddus.
Leveson said that the case against Kuddus, who spoke little English and had only taken over the restaurant from Rashid the previous year, “in circumstances in which Mr Rashid continued to manage it”, was based “solely upon his failure to introduce appropriate systems at a time when he knew nothing of prospective customers’ allergies”, adding that there was “no evidence that he was at any stage notified of Megan’s allergy”.
Although the appeal judges overturned Kuddus’ conviction, Leveson warned: “There is now a general awareness of the potential risks to those who suffer from allergies and, as a result, it should be understood that the courts will rigorously scrutinise the way in which restaurants discharge the duty of care that they owe such customers.”
Rashid, of Rudd Street, Haslingden, had been jailed for a total of three years.
He was found guilty of manslaughter, and also convicted of failing to discharge a general duty of employers, contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act, and another count of failing to put in place, implement and maintain a permanent procedure or procedures in contravention of European Union food safety regulations.
Leveson said no application had been made for a retrial against him on the manslaughter charge.