Camden Council fined �72,000 over toddler crushed by wall

CAMDEN Council has been fined �72,000 and ordered to pay �65,000 costs for beaching health and safety rules which led to the tragic death of a toddler.

Two-year-old Saurav Ghai was killed as he was walking along Southampton Road in Gospel Oak with his childminder in January 2007 when a brick wall, weighing almost a ton, collapsed on top of him in high winds.

The council pleaded guilty to one breach of health and safety regulations last October but a trial of issue was held early last month to determine the extent of its guilt.

The wall which collapsed onto the toddler had been improperly repaired a decade earlier by contactors Chattertons, who have since disappeared.

Judge Deborah Taylor, sitting at Southwark Crown Court, ruled that the council should have taken more care to ensure the wall was repaired to a decent standard.

She told the court: “Camden should have told Chattertons exactly what was needed to be done and exercise appropriate supervision to ensure what was required was done.

“That would not have involved extreme measures. Camden has failed on a balance of probability that in relation to repair of the relevant section of wall it did all that was reasonably practicable.

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“The wall was in a critical position adjacent to a public highway and opposite a school.”

She added: “The most serious feature of this offence is that it was a significant cause to the death of little Saurav Ghai.”

His parents Vinay and Desiree were in court for the sentencing.

The court heard that gusts of wind on the day the wall collapsed were recorded at 55mph with a maximum of 77mph.

Experts told the court the wall, which was originally built in the 70s, was too slender for its height, and a poor repair job by contractors Chattertons in 1997 had left it in a dangerous state.

After the sentencing, the child’s father Mr Vinay Ghai said: “We are grateful to the HSE for their efforts and persistence when dealing with the council, for keeping us involved at different stages of the investigation and being understanding of our frustration at many times during this period.

“Without HSE’s involvement we would never have found out the proper facts that led to Saurav’s death.

“It has been four years since our son was killed and we hope his short life will at the very least highlight the importance of the care required to make our public places safer.”

Michael Le Rose, a health and safety inspector, said on behalf of the family: “Sauruv Ghai should have been able to walk down the street without his life being put at risk.

“Tragically this was not the case and his parents now face life without their son because the London Borough of Camden simply failed to maintain a wall which was in poor condition.

“This tragic incident should serve as a reminder to all organisations to keep their building stock safe including boundary walls.”

David Padfield, assistant director of housing management said: “We are very sorry that the collapse of a wall belonging to Camden Council resulted in the death of Saurav Ghai. We would like to express our deepest sympathy and remorse to his family, particularly at this time.

“While Camden pleaded guilty to breaching its health and safety duty it also asked the Court to consider a number of technical issues relating to the adequacy of the council’s systems of repair and maintenance and the nature and extent of that breach. We will be giving further consideration to the ruling made by the Judge and its implications.

“Camden Council is fully committed to ensuring the safety of residents and those who choose to visit our borough and this is reflected in everything that we do. Since this terrible accident in 2007 we have reviewed all of our procedures to ensure we are doing everything possible to keep people safe.”