Electrician fined £1,000 after death of young mum

2:41pm Monday 31st March 2014

A ROWLEY Regis electrician whose negligence helped turn a flat where a young mother was electrocuted into a death trap, has been fined £1,000.

Emma Shaw was killed when a "catastrophic" shock passed through her body as she tried to deal with a leak from the boiler in her West Bromwich home.

The electrical fault behind the tragic death of the 22-year-old whose baby son, Braden, was in the living room, would have been avoided if proper tests had been carried out in the Grafton Road property.

After the case, Diane Potter said she had finally got justice for her daughter but she described the fine as a "joke".

Mrs Potter said: "I am so very disappointed. That is a very small price to pay for a death. It has been over six years since I lost Emma and I haven't really been able to grieve. But now at last I have closure."

She said Emma, who lived with her partner Andrew Cross, and their son in the Jefferson Place flat, was a wonderful daughter concluding: "It just does not seem right to fine someone only £1,000 for such a terrible thing."

Neil Hoult worked as a qualified supervisor on the site when the flats were built in 2006 and he signed off certificates that they were safe and they posed no danger.

The 52-year-old of Dane Terrace, denied failing to discharge his duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act but he was found guilty by a jury at the end of his trial.

Hoult had been employed by Anchor Building and Electrical Services Ltd who had since gone into liquidation and, maintained Gary Bell QC defending, he did not have time to do the work he was asked to carry out.

"There was an appalling catalogue of errors at these flats," he told Wolverhampton Crown Court.

"None of the actual work was carried out by him - a lot of other people are responsible for what happened."

He added: "He accepts that he signed certificates that these flats were safe and that the buck stops with him."

Judge Michael Dudley said Hoult was responsible for a "grave breach of duty" but he went on, "I accept there are a number of other individuals who are as culpable as you."

The judge said Hoult and others had failed to detect the fault that lead to the tragedy and, because he had simply perused the paperwork, a "dangerous situation" was allowed to go on for some considerable time.

He said the only penalty he could impose was a financial one and it would never be able to compensate the family who had lost a "loved one."

The conviction would have a lasting effect on father-of-two Hoult, said the judge, who was now no longer working as a qualified supervisor.

He gave him 12 months to pay the £1,000 and ruled he would have to serve 30 days imprisonment in default.

Electrician Christopher Tomkins, aged 52, of Rowley Village, Rowley Regis, also denied failing to discharge his duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act and he was cleared by the jury.

The six man-six woman jury considered the evidence against him for nearly 12 hours before finding him not guilty on a 10-2 majority verdict.

In evidence Tomkins said he had been assured by a workmate that the vital tests had been carried out on the flat before filling in the required forms.

In a victim impact statement, Mrs Potter said the death of Emma had devastated the family and she was still in shock: "I always feel as though she is still with me," she added.

"She was far too young to lose her life particularly in the place where she should have felt safe - her own home."

Paul Shaw, Emma's father, said he too remained extremely angry about what had happened, having spoken to his daughter the day before she was killed.

It was an old telephone he used for the call, said Mr Shaw, but one he would never throw away because it was a link to Emma: "She was looking forward to a happy future. But it could have been a double tragedy if she had not left her son in the living room."

The trial was told a screw had pierced an electrical cable in the flat and a metal frame in a wall had become charged. When water leaked from the boiler it too became charged and when Miss Shaw touched the stopcock to turn off the supply she became earthed and she was electrocuted.

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