Camden Council guilt in wall collapse case would be ‘unreasonable’, court hears.

AN ‘unreasonable precedent’ would be set for public authorities across the country if Camden Council is held fully responsible for the collapse of a Gospel Oak wall which killed a toddler, Southwark Crown Court heard today.

The lawyer acting on behalf of the council told the courtroom that to find Camden fully responsible for the wall collapse that killed 2-year-old Saurav Ghai in 2007 would set an “impractical” and “unreasonable” precedent.

Defence lawyer Dominic Kay said Camden could not be expected to check up on every piece of work carried out by “competent and experienced” contractors they had employed.

He said that if the council was found to be at fault then the “same must then be the case in every safety critical case which Camden undertake”.

He continued: “Camden carries out over 100,000 repairs of this nature every year and over 2,000 of this nature every week.

“They are talking about all safety critical repairs which could include not just a wall repair but an electrical repair, slats on a roof, glazing, handrails even, it can’t seriously be suggested that such a process is necessary when the council selects a competent contractor.”

He added that as the issue with the wall itself was not complex, Camden had no reason to believe the contractors were not capable of carrying out the work.

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He told the court the suggestion would mean a situation where they would “tell a bricklayer how to lay his bricks or go and check that he has indeed been laying his bricks the way they have told him too.”

“It would not be reasonable, practical for a council in Camden’s position to check half way though every [piece of] minor work,” he added.

The wall, which was agreed to be “too thin” and “built extremely badly” at the case’s opening on Tuesday, collapsed on Saurav as he was being walked home to Hampstead in a storm in January 2007 by his childminder.

While the council initially pleaded not guilty to breaching heath and safety legislation it changed its plea to guilty in October.

The prosecution claimed today that Camden Council neglected the up-keep of the 6ft by 8ft piece of the Wending Estate’s boundary and that this neglect lead directly to its collapse.

Prosecuting James Ageros said: “On a practical basis there is no reason that Camden should have exacted a lesser degree of control over a sub-contractor than they would have over their own employees.

“There is no need for any ruling that is made here will be rolled out across all councils as a one size fits all injunction.

“It was incumbent on Camden to make an assessment of the risk and no effective assessment was made of what was happening here.”

He added that each case should instead be judged on the risk the repair in question poses.

The sentence will be passed by Her Honour Judge Taylor on February 4.

Saurav’s parents Vinay and Desiree, who were in court, have already waited four years for the case to be heard.