Hotel companies fined nearly £160,000 after wedding party injured in staircase collapse in Hemel Hempstead
The incident occurred in 2017, at a wedding at the Holiday Inn Hotel
Two companies have been fined almost £160,000 after a staircase wedding guests were standing on collapsed - leaving some seriously injured.
HICP Limited and Interstate United Kingdom Management Limited were fined £159,940 after a successful prosecution brought by Dacorum Borough Council.
The incident occurred in 2017, when a wedding was held at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Breakspear Way, Hemel Hempstead.
The relatives and friends of the couple were told to assemble on exterior wooden stairs for photographs.
Although those stairs were regularly used, including for weddings photos, they had not been properly maintained, and the timber had become very rotten.
The posts holding up the stairs were particularly rotted. They were made of laminated softwood not suited for use outdoors, especially without thorough maintenance.
Guests had gathered on the stairs for photos, with more about to join in, when the upper flight of stairs collapsed like a trap door, with part of the stairs and ten people standing on that part falling down onto the hard courtyard below.
Seven of those who fell were hospitalised, two with long term injuries.
Upon examination by investigators and timber experts, the staircase and adjoining large wooden balcony area were found to be rotten in many places, and parts of the rotten areas had been inappropriately filled with foam filler, or with solid filler which had been painted over.
Fingers or ballpoint pens could readily be poked into or through the wood in places, and there was a danger of the structure collapsing.
Cllr Julie Banks, portfolio holder for community and regulatory services said: “I consider the safety of local residents and visitors to be an imperative. We will vigorously investigate and take appropriate enforcement action where serious safety failings lead to serious injuries or deaths.
"All those involved in running businesses and operations should understand that they may face prosecution for their part in such failings, as the two companies did here, facing substantial penalties despite the allowance rightly made for the impact of Covid on hotel businesses in recent times."
On September 22, 2021, Peterborough Magistrates’ Court imposed penalties totalling £159,940 on HICP Limited and Interstate United Kingdom Management Limited for safety failures leading to the injury of wedding party guests.
In sentencing, the court reduced the penalties to reflect the impact of Covid on hospitality companies’ finances and to reflect the defendants’ previous good character and early guilty pleas.
HICP Limited, whose hotel it had been since spring 2015 was ordered to pay a fine, costs and surcharge totalling more than £110,000.
Interstate United Kingdom Management Limited, which assisted HICP in the management of the hotel, was ordered to pay penalties of almost £50,000.
A spokesperson for Interstate Hotels and Resorts, said: “We are deeply sorry to all of those affected by the incident at Holiday Inn Hemel Hempstead in 2017.
"The safety and wellbeing of all our guests and employees is our highest priority and improvements to systems and processes have been put in place to ensure something like this does
not happen again.”
Dacorum Borough Council's Food, Health and Safety Lead Officer, Rebecca Connolly, investigated the incident.
She said: “Those who operate premises which they charge the public to use are required by law to put in place adequate arrangements to monitor the state of those premises and to ensure necessary repair or replacement work is identified and done.
"External timber structures are notoriously subject to decay and regular and rigorous checks on them need to be conducted by persons competent to do those checks."