Alton Towers’ owners fined £5million over Smiler crash

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc, 1974 and were fined £5million with costs of £69,955.40 after a rollercoaster collision left 16 people seriously injured.

A HSE investigation found no fault with the track, the cars, or the control system that keeps the cars apart from each other when the ride is running. Stafford Crown Court heard that on the day of the incident engineers overrode the Smiler’s control system without the knowledge and understanding to ensure it was safe to do so.

According to the HSE, investigators found the root cause of the accident to be “a lack of detailed, robust arrangements for making safety critical decisions. The whole system, from training through to fixing faults, was not strong enough to stop a series of errors by staff when working with people on the ride”.

When sentencing, the Judge remarked “Human error was not the cause as was suggested by the defendant in an early press release” it was the company’s “catastrophic failure to assess risk and have a structured system of work”.

Forbes comment

This is one of the first cases to be sentenced under the new sentencing guidelines. The sentencing guidelines which were first introduced earlier this year are intended to direct the courts to consider the sentencing of offending organisations by way of a step by step approach, which considers culpability and the risk of harm.  To achieve a proportionate sentence, the Court considered the defendant’s turnover and profit before tax. The Court also considered aggravating factors such as the defendant company’s conviction in 2012 for a similar offence involving a fatality at Warwick Castle which also involved a failure to carry out a risk assessment.  Ultimately, the appropriate fine was deemed to be £7.5 million which was discounted by a third to reflect the early guilty plea.



Sarah Wilkinson

About Sarah Wilkinson

Solicitor in the Insurance department
This entry was posted in Regulatory.

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