Monday, October 29, 2018

News: Rotherham bed manufacturer sent to prison for more than three years

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The owner of a Sheffield bed manufacturer, 37-year-old Craig Williams of Park View Road, Kimberworth, appeared at Leeds Crown Court last week and was sentenced to three years and four months in prison. He was given 21 months for the fraud charge and 19 months for the breach of Section 3 of the Heath and Safety Work Act. Williams has also been disqualified from being a Director for ten years.

Williams who was on trial following the death of a seven-month-old baby boy Oscar Abbey, pleaded guilty to breaching section 3 of the Health and Safety Work Act. He admitted that he failed to ensure that the bed he designed, manufactured and supplied to Oscar's family was safe and as a consequence it caused Oscar's death. He also pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation.

Appearing alongside him, 31-year old Joseph Bruce of Wingfield Road, Rotherham pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation at an earlier hearing and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. He was also disqualified from being a Director for ten years.

During a two week trial, a jury heard how Williams, owner of bespoke children's bed manufacturer Playtime Beds Ltd, ignored safety guidelines and made and supplied dangerous beds which had been purchased by families for their children to sleep in. Overnight on Wednesday November 2 2016, baby Oscar became entrapped in an opening of a cot gate fitted to the bed supplied by Williams, and as a consequence he died of positional asphyxiation, which occurs when a person's position prevents them from breathing adequately.

The court was read a statement from Oscar's father Charlie Abbey, explaining how he found his baby son cold and unresponsive at 6.30am on Thursday November 3 2016, with his head stuck inside the gate of the cot and his body on the outside of the bed. Oscar had wriggled through a gap backwards, which had been cut into the cot gate, but his head, which was too large for the aperture, became stuck. Despite the efforts of his parents and emergency services, Oscar was pronounced dead on arrival at York Hospital.

Evidence of a Facebook conversation between Oscar's mother, Shannon Abbey and Williams was shown to the jury. In that conversation, Shannon specifically asked Williams about the safety of the bed and told him the age of the child who would be sleeping in it. Williams responded by telling Oscar's mother that his beds were suitable for children of "any age." The court heard that even though Williams was trained to NVQ 2 level in wood occupations, he paid no regard to mandatory safety standards around the size of the gaps between the bars of a cot front, and had actually just adapted template bed designs from an American internet site. That site included measurements between apertures which would of met British Safety Standards if followed. However, this wasn't the case.

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The court also heard that in the months prior to Oscar's death, other customers had raised safety concerns with Williams following incidents involving their own children. Williams stated that his beds exceeded safety standards, and informed one such customer that Trading Standards were happy with the products manufactured by him and if she continued to raise her concerns he would take her to court. He continued to manufacture and supply beds.

Following Oscar's death, police informed Williams of the incident and Sheffield Trading Standards issued Playtime Beds Ltd with a cease and desist warning, directing him to stop the manufacture and supply of his beds, due to serious safety concerns.

However, through the investigation conducted by North Yorkshire Police, officers found that Williams wilfully ignored the instruction and instead, set up another business called Magical Dream Beds Ltd, fronted by co-worker Joseph Bruce, with the specific intention to keep on supplying beds to other families, under another company's name.

The court heard that Bruce, directed by Williams, emailed Playtime Beds customers, stating the new company would fulfill all outstanding orders and that the beds complied with safety regulations. The investigation team identified that Williams and Bruce had gone on to sell a bed to an unsuspecting customer in London just two and a half weeks after Oscar's death. This bed, like the bed sold to the Abbey family, was examined by an expert, who concluded that neither bed complied with the relevant safety standards and posed a threat to children who slept in them.

Detective Superintendent Nigel Costello, senior investigating officer at North Yorkshire Police, said: "This has been a very difficult case to investigate, but I am pleased that justice has been delivered to Oscar's parents and wider family today. They have been through a harrowing experience – the initial shock and devastation of the loss of their baby in 2016, a detailed police investigation and nearly two years on, having to relive each minute again during a court case. Our hearts go out to them and while we realise that this result can never take away the pain of losing Oscar, we hope that in some small way the sentences given today allows them to move on into happier times.

"As the court heard over the past two weeks, the actions of Williams and Bruce were deplorable.

"The death of Oscar was preventable. As the investigation developed and unfolded, we found that Williams and Bruce were solely motivated by money and were willing to sacrifice children’s safety in the pursuit of it."

John Maher, principal trading standards officer at Sheffield City Council, added: "This case presents a clear warning to those whose hobby becomes a business for manufacturing products, that there can be catastrophic consequences of deliberately ignoring product safety requirements. There is always a need to ensure products are safe for consumers to use but particularly for babies and children."

Images: North Yorkshire Police

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