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March 31, 2022

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Topshop death: Topshop and Arcadia guilty of safety breaches

Topshop and its former owners have been found guilty of health and safety breaches after a 10-year-old boy died when a queue barrier toppled on him.


Topshop and its former owners have been found guilty of health and safety breaches after a 10-year-old boy died when a queue barrier toppled on him. Kaden Reddick suffered a fatal head injury at the Reading store during a family shopping trip in 2017. 

Following a two-month trial, Arcadia Group and Topshop/Topman were convicted of failing to discharge a health and safety duty. A jury found barrier manufacturer Realm Projects not guilty of the same charge. 

Stoneforce Ltd, which was contracted to fit the barriers, had earlier pleaded guilty to failing to discharge a health and safety duty. During the trial, Reading Crown Court heard the barrier was installed between 2013 and 2014, during a major store refit. 

The plinth supporting the barrier at the store in Reading’s Oracle shopping centre had only been fixed to the floor with two narrow screws and the “wobbly” barrier fell on Kaden, prosecutors said. The prosecution claimed the screws were inappropriate and more suitable for hanging a picture. CCTV video showed the barrier at the Reading store “wobble” as people leaned on it.

Topshop and Arcadia were convicted of failure to discharge health and safety duties, failing to ensure that the design, manufacture and maintenance of the barrier did not pose a risk to the health and safety of someone not employed by them under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Arcadia, Topshop/Topman and Stoneforce Ltd will be sentenced at a later date. 


The inquest into the death, carried out in 2020 ruled that Kaden died accidentally at the town’s Oracle shopping centre on 13 February 2017. He suffered a head injury when the 110kg barrier fell on him, the inquest at Reading Town Hall heard.

The jury had been told that the 10-year-old was swinging on a barrier moments before it fell on his head. The swinging caused the barrier to tip and fall on to his head, jurors heard. He was confirmed dead at the Royal Berkshire Hospital a short time later.

The inquest was also told how there had been two previous incidents, one which saw  a 10-year-old girl seriously injured by a badly-installed queue barrier at a Topshop store in Glasgow, and another involving a similar barrier at a store in Manchester.

Following the second incident in February 2017, a week before Kaden’s death, the company asked managers to check their barriers did not “wobble”.

Reading branch manager Martin Tull responded “no” but later said he “didn’t test the barriers for movement in any way”, the inquest heard.

The MDF barrier was fixed to a concrete floor by four screws, the hearing was told.

Coroner Alison McCormick said the death had been accidental. She told the boy’s family: “Kaden’s death has touched all of us in this court but for you, as you’ve said, [it] has left an enormous hole in your lives, a void that can never be filled.”

Speaking at the inquest, Kaden’s mother, Lisa Mallet, described hearing a smash then seeing the barrier – which was being used as a queue divider – on top of Kaden. She said that at first she thought he was quiet, before realising he was not moving.

Student Niamh Gillespie told the inquest she was standing behind Kaden and his mother and sister as they queued for the till. She said the second time he tried to swing on the barrier she saw his feet slip and it fall on him.

 ‘No guidelines’ on securing barriers

The inquest was also been told there was no manufacturer guidance on how they should be secured to the floor. The barrier maker said there were no rules on how they were attached to floors as they differed in each branch.

Barrier manufacturer David Renshaw of Realm Projects told jurors at Reading Town Hall his firm had made 88 barrier units – three of which had gone to the Reading Topshop store. He said: “It was a totally fit for purpose component that did not fail in any way whatsoever.” He added the company’s approved design drawings stated the units should be “fixed in place to the floor.”

Manufacturer Realm Projects was not involved in the installation of the barriers – that role fell to the shop fitters at each store, the inquest heard.

Former store procurement manager for Arcadia Group, which owns Topshop, Alan Prior explained the barrier had originally been designed in metal and would have been bolted to the floor. But after the supplier went into liquidation in 2012, Realm Projects was hired to make similar barriers from medium density fibreboard (MDF).

An Arcadia spokesman, said: “Arcadia takes health and safety very seriously and continues to fully co-operate with the relevant authorities in relation to this tragic accident.

“Arcadia is unable to comment any more specifically at this time. Our thoughts remain with Kaden’s family and we extend every sympathy to them for their loss.”

The barriers, which doubled as a display unit, each weighed 110kg and would have been loaded with products encouraging “impulse” purchases as customers waited in line.

Barristers told the hearing the case may result in criminal proceedings.

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