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August 23, 2023

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David Lloyd Prosecution

Fieldfisher Health & Safety disputes expert, Elliott Kenton and solicitor Krysteen Ormons explore the recent David Lloyd case which resulted in a £2.5 million fine for the leisure centre operator.

On Tuesday 01 August 2023, David Lloyd Leisure Club was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court for health and safety breaches which led to the tragic death of a three-year old boy in 2018. The Judge fined David Lloyd £2.5 million, as well as ordering prosecution costs of over £250,000. As David Lloyd was fined previously in 2016 for a near identical incident, this case highlights the importance of organisations revisiting the weaknesses in their health and safety policies and systems and learning from their mistakes.

The incident

In April 2018, Rocco Wright died after being left unsupervised by his father at the bottom of a swimming pool within a David Lloyd leisure centre in Moretown, Leeds. The inquest into Rocco’s death, held in 2020, found that only one lifeguard, aged 17 years old, was on duty at the pool. Further, the inquest heard that no witnesses or CCTV footage could explain how Rocco, who had slipped away from his father, went unnoticed in the water.

A key part of the inquest was to examine whether David Lloyd’s existing policy of one lifeguard to supervise 50 people in a pool was adequate in the circumstance. Senior managers at David Lloyd told the inquest that that figure had been set almost two decades before and had never been reviewed, nor challenged by external members or other third parties.

Past failures

In his sentencing remarks, the judge highlighted the incident in 2016, which involved a child being discovered in the water of a David Lloyd pool in one of its centres in outer London. Although the incident did not end in a fatality, David Lloyd was subsequently fined £330,000 for health and safety failures. The death of Rocco Wright in near-identical circumstances just two years after David Lloyd’s initial prosecution is strongly suggestive of lessons not being learned.

The sentence

David Lloyd was convicted under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the primary legislation that regulates workplace health and safety, for their failure to take all reasonable, practical steps to ensure the safety of those visiting its centre.

Philips J found that David Lloyd had fallen far short of the appropriate standards and had “ignored” employees’ concerns which allowed “breaches to exist over a long period of time.” The fine imposed upon David Lloyd by the courts was £2.9 million, reduced to £2.55 million to reflect David Lloyds’ admission of guilt. David Lloyd admitted to deficits in its risk assessment processes, with regards to the indoor pool, and to not having carried out formal visibility assessments.

Credit for plea

In health and safety prosecutions, there is typically a discount of up to one-third against the final fine where the defendant company has entered an early guilty plea. In the case of David Lloyd, the reduction for guilty plea was calculated lower, at just over 15%, on account of the fact David Lloyd maintained a not guilty position until weeks before a very lengthy trial was due to commence. The significance of this is that  Leeds City Council (the investigating authority) and all the witnesses, including Rocco Wright’s family, would have been preparing for the trial for quite some time before the guilty plea eliminated the need for a trial.

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