Britannia Hotels fined over £80,000 after guest injured falling through rusted railings
Britannia Hotels has been fined £80,000 and costs of £6,821 after a guest sustained "life-changing injuries" falling through rusted railings at its Prince of Wales hotel in Southport.
Sefton Council's senior lawyer Fiona Townsend told Sefton Magistrates' Court that the railings to prevent people falling down the six-foot 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 more than three weeks after the incident.
Townsend said: "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.
"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.
"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 statement, Henshall told the court after a full body scan at Aintree University Hospital she was told she had two spinal fractures, a broken left big toe and blood on her lungs due to the sternum and rib fractures. She also sustained a head injury, concussion and trauma.
She said she was distressed over how her life has changed since the accident, before which she was working two jobs. In her statement she wrote that she had been off work since the accident, had lost both jobs and is on Universal Credit and personal independent payments.
"I am still suffering every day with severe pain," she wrote. "I used to be a very outgoing and very social within my group of friends and family and this accident has caused me so much pain and distress that I feel I will never be back to the person I was before this accident."
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."