National newsagents and convenience store Martin McColl Ltd was fined £150,000 after admitting failing to protect staff members following a series of shop robberies in Wirral. This was not the first case of its kind for the newsagents, which was prosecuted in August 2010 after a store manager was assaulted.
Liverpool Crown Court heard how the newsagents, now known as McColl’s Retail Group PLC which has 12,000 staff across the UK, had fallen “significantly below the standards required” in protecting staff from the risk of harm.
Wirral Council brought the case to court after it was found that a failure to carry out risk assessments for shop staff exposed them to a risk of workplace violence, as well as other health and safety breaches.
The six robberies happened between mid 2011 and early 2012 and were detailed as:
- 26 April 2011 – a shop manager was knocked out and suffered concussion after being hit by a robber while transferring £8k to £10k in takings to the shop on Highfield Road, Rock Ferry.
- August 2011 – a lone female shop worker was threatened with a knife while opening up the shop.
- October 2011 – a woman working at the store on Upton Road, Noctorum, was threatened by a robber with a crowbar.
- December 2011 – a gunman pointed a pistol at a customer’s head and threatened a staff member.
- In two further incidents gangs of men broke into shops on Homelands Drive, Prenton and King Street, Rock Ferry and robbed shop staff, some of whom were so traumatised they said they could never work in a shop again.
It was heard that shop staff had raised issues with management about a lack of equipment including lockable doors into back room areas, CCTV and visibility as to who was entering the shop.
The company pleaded guilty to six charges of breaching its duty of care to staff in May this year. The company was ordered to pay a £150,000 fine as well as £78,000 prosecution costs.
Judge Graham Morrow said: “The lesson must be brought home to managers and shareholders by the size of the fine.
“Those who work for the company must have the confidence that the lesson has been learned.”
Speaking after sentencing, cabinet member for environment and sustainability councillor Bernie Mooney said: “In undertaking its regulatory functions the council seeks to work closely with businesses to secure compliance with legislation that safeguards health and safety. Where appropriate, we will not hesitate to take formal action through the courts where businesses fail to comply with their duties to protect their employees.
“This case sends a clear message that it is vital for employers to seriously assess the risk of workplace violence and put reasonable control measures in place to protect both their customers and employees.”
A McColl’s spokesperson said: “McColl’s accepts the findings of the court for the historic incidents which took place between 2008 and 2012. The wellbeing and safety of our staff is of the upmost importance to us and prior to these incidents we had committed to review and update our health and safety policies. We have already addressed specific issues resulting from the case and have addressed the relevant policy across our nationwide network of stores.”
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