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August 7, 2020

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Tower Hamlets council charged over girl killed by rotting swing

A council has been charged with health and safety breaches over the death of a five-year-old girl in a playground and faces a potential £2 million legal bill, the Evening Standard has reported.

Schoolgirl Alexia Walenkaki died in Mile End Park a day prior to her sixth birthday, when a rotting log swing collapsed on her on 17 July 2015.

According to reports, Tower Hamlets council has signed off a £2 million “extraordinary cost item” from its children’s services budget to pay a potential fine and its legal costs, as the HSE brings a prosecution.

The authority has been charged with breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. A hearing is due to take place in October at Westminster magistrates’ court.

According to the Standard, the borough’s Mayor John Biggs has said that the authority is planning to plead guilty.

Two council employees and the contractor who designed and fitted the equipment in Mile End Park playground had been found to have “breached their duty of care” in a 2018 report, ordered by the CPS’s special crime division.

The report found that annual inspections of the play equipment had not been carried out by the council and wood used to construct the swing was unsuitable.

Although the report found “serious breaches” and a series of failings, it concluded no criminal charges would be brought against individuals or the local authority.

The most serious breach was found to be the use of poplar or willow wood for the log which killed Alexia. Both have a lifespan of three years and the log was fitted four years before her death.

A spokesperson for the council confirmed that urgent safety checks of equipment at all council run play facilities were carried out following Alexia’s death.

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