Council welcomes care home fine after resident’s death

The local authority which investigated and prosecuted a Milford care home after an 80-year-old woman died when a wardrobe fell on top of her, has welcomed a court decision to fine the owners a total of £60,000, with costs of £90,000. The level of the fine sends a clear message that serious breaches of health and safety legislation will not be tolerated by the courts.

Amber Valley Borough Council began an investigation after Thomasina Bennett, from Belper, died at Milford House Care Home in April 2012.

Milford House Partnership appeared in court in March this year and had denied two health and safety at work charges, but were convicted of one relating to personal activity monitor alarms (PAM). During a trial earlier this year, Derby Crown Court heard the monitors were "systematically unsafe."

The monitors were supposed to alert staff if residents got up in the night, but Mrs Bennett's alarm had not gone off before she was found.

The PAMs were used in multiple rooms, but could only show one alarm at a time. In other instances, they would appear to be working when they were not.

Commenting after the Court’s decision to impose the £60,000 fine, Amber Valley Borough Council’s Assistant Director (Well Being), Kirk Monk, said: “We would once again like to take this opportunity to offer our sincere condolences to Mrs Bennett’s family. This trial represented the culmination of an in-depth investigation by Amber Valley Borough Council officers. During this investigation we were satisfied we uncovered a systematic failure in health and safety processes. We are happy that the jury agreed with us on the matter of the Personal Activity Monitors, and that this fine was imposed.

“We hope this court case will have far-reaching consequences for improved health and safety standards in care facilities, not just in the Amber Valley area, but across the whole UK.

“Evidence from the case has already been discussed with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Ultimately we would like guidance changes to be made to help ensure wardrobes are properly secured. This may take some time but in the meantime we hope that care providers and commissioners of care will take into account the issues that have been raised in this case.”

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