Hugo Boss admits breaches after death of four-year-old
Hugo Boss has admitted to health and safety breaches that resulted in a four-year-old boy being crushed to death by a falling mirror.
Austen Harrison, had been playing with the 120kg unfixed steel-framed fitting-room mirror at the designer shop at the Bicester Village outlet while his father Simon tried on a suit.
He underwent an emergency operation to relieve pressure on his brain but died four days later in hospital after his life-support machine was switched off.
The clothing giant admitted two health and safety breaches at a hearing at Banbury Magistrates’ Court on 2 June for failing to secure mirror.
Jonathan Laidlaw QC, defending, entered a guilty plea for the company to offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
However, Barry Berlin, prosecuting on behalf of Cherwell District Council, told the court that the label should be sentenced at the crown court because the maximum fine at magistrates’ court was only £20,000.
He suggested the case should be sentenced in the crown court where the recommended starting point of a £100,000 fine per offence could be imposed or even exceeded.
“Plainly this a very serious matter relating to a child aged four-and-a-half who on June 4 2013 was struck on the head by a seven feet tall, 18 stone free standing three-way mirror,” he added.
“It wasn’t fixed to the wall despite its own requirements. We say, bearing in mind that the injuries the child sustained resulted in his death, that this is a case that should be dealt with in the crown court.”
District Judge David Chinery said it was an “exceptionally sad” case and adjourned sentencing to Oxford Crown Court on a provisional date on June 19.
“This is quite plainly an exceptionally sad case and one where I consider that the penalties available in this court are clearly not appropriate to a case of this magnitude,” he added.
An inquest into Austen’s death heard that the mirror had been moved to the changing room several months before the tragedy, but had not been fixed to the wall.
Recording a narrative verdict the inquest jury said the mirror should have been fixed to the wall and reinforced.
The jury foreman said: “Austen died at approximately 5.45am on June 8, 2013, at the John Radcliffe Hospital.
“His death was a result of an incident with a mirror which fell on him at the Hugo Boss store in Bicester Village on June 4.
“The mirror came to fall on Austen after he moved the wings, causing the unfixed mirror to become unstable. The jury believes the mirror should have been fixed to the wall and the wall should have been reinforced and we do not believe it was.
“We are not able to say who moved it to the fitting room. We believe a risk assessment should have been completed post-work to ensure the mirror was secured to the wall.
“We believe there were health and safety systems in place but we are not confident they would have avoided any challenges posed by the mirror.
“In any case, these systems seem to not have been followed.”
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