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Norwich pub fined after OAP falls down stairs

PUBLISHED: 15:00 02 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:31 02 July 2010

The Glasshouse.

The Glasshouse.

Kate Scotter

A pensioner suffered multiple injuries when she fell down a set of stairs at a city pub, leading to a £9,000 fine for the business because of health and safety breaches.

A pensioner suffered multiple injuries when she fell down a set of stairs at a city pub, leading to a £9,000 fine for the business because of health and safety breaches.

Eileen Barker, 79, of Holt Road, Hellesdon, broke her leg and her arm in three places after she fell while in the Glass House in Wensum Street, Norwich.

Norwich magistrates heard yesterday how investigations into the incident found the pub, part of the national chain JD Wetherspoon, had failed to carry out a sufficient risk assessment and the stairs did not conform to building regulations.

The company, which owns more than 450 pubs nationwide, pleaded guilty to two charges in relation to the Health and Safety at Work Act. It was ordered to pay a fine and costs totalling £18,765.

Speaking after the hearing, Mrs Barker, who was with her husband William, said: “We had been in the Glass House for a drink. I don't drink so I just had a glass of orange squash. We were all ready to leave and I just went to the toilet.

“When you come out, there are three steps. I had been up and down them so many times. Just that day, I put one foot on the step and the rest is a blur. I think myself lucky I got away with my life.”

The set of three stairs are upstairs outside the female toilet. It was heard that when there are at least three steps, a handrail should be provided.

The accident happened on September 11, 2007 and Mrs Barker was in hospital until October and in plaster until December that year.

Norwich City Council officers carried out investigations and told Wetherspoon's to install a handrail in November 2007.

However, it took until February 2009 before a handrail was put in place, during which time a second person had fallen down the set of stairs, the court heard.

Yvonne Blake, prosecuting on behalf of the city council, said: “They put the safety of those not employed by them at risk. There wasn't a deliberate breach of health and safety regulations, but an insufficient assessment had been carried out which was not site specific. A handrail is a modest thing for a company of its size.”

The court heard how Wetherspoon's had two previous convictions. In 2005, a mother and her baby fell down an open cellar in the Bell pub in Norwich. Elsewhere, there was an accident in one of the company's pubs in Birmingham where a cellar had been left open in 2009.

During mitigation, Jeremy Bark said: “The Glass House site is a listed building and there were a number of reasons for the delay.

“The company had to carry out an investigation and go through English Heritage before putting in a planning application for the handrail. Once planning permission was granted, builders went in to install the handrail immediately and steps have been taken so this type of incident can no longer occur.

“With 754 premises, there have only been two incidents similar to this and it's the first time something like that had happened in the Glass House, which has been open since 2002. The company is a very responsible organisation.”

Wetherspoon's was fined £9,000, told to pay £9,750 in costs and £15 victim surcharge.

John Rockcliffe, chairman of the bench, said: “It's clearly a breach of the building regulations which should have been picked up, but wasn't. The delay in rectifying the matter was too long - while there was a need for an investigation, there was no reason why a temporary arrangement couldn't have been made quite quickly to put some kind of handrail on the stairs.”

Do you have a story for the Evening News? Call reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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