25 January, 2021
On 30 May 2019, a child was ejected from the Twister ride at Lightwater Valley Theme Park in Ripon, North Yorkshire resulting in serious head injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that although the theme park's procedures for the Twister ride stated that those between 1.2m and 1.5m tall must wear seat belts, several children under 1.5m in height were not wearing seat belts on this ride. This was seen in CCTV footage over several days and mentioned in statements by members of the public. On examination of the restraining systems, many belts were not functioning correctly. On several occasions, the final position of the lap bar restraint allowed significant gaps to remain in the containment and did not fully contain smaller passengers.
Lightwater Valley Attractions Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £333, 344 and ordered to pay costs of £16,183.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrea Jones said: "A child suffered life-changing head injuries at Lightwater Valley theme park.
"Our investigation found that the theme park did not implement suitable operating procedures and monitoring of ride operators in relation to the ride restraints.
"This was an entirely avoidable incident. Several children were put at risk and Lightwater Valley has now been held to account for their failings."
The child's mother spoke of how 'the little boy I took to Lightwater Valley that day is not the same boy that woke up after the surgery. I still grieve for my little boy.'
Fines in HSE prosecutions are based on a formula that broadly looks at the severity of the incident and the turnover of the organisation concerned. With a pre COVID-19 turnover of just over £9m the company would be categorised in accordance with the Sentencing Guidelines as "small" (when the turnover is between 2m and 10m - see table below).
The turnover simply provides a starting point for the Court to consider on sentencing.
The Court also have regard to the offender's culpability (which ranges from very high to low) where this can be from deliberate breach of or flagrant disregard of the law to offender fell short of appropriate standard by industry standards, ignoring concerns, not making changes due to previous incidents etc, e.g serious and/or systemic failures.
The Court would also have regard to harm factors created by the offence which is combination of the seriousness of the harm risked by the breach and the likelihood of that harm arising.
A guilty plea would have reduced the starting point of the fine by a third, so the starting point for the fine here was around £500 000. Therefore, we can see that the HSE regarded this as a very high culpability/ harm category offence.