Hatters Hostels Limited own a chain of youth hostels in Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. In 2014 the HSE conducted an unannouced inspection at one of the Manchester sites, the basement of which was being refurbished. No asbestos survey had been carried out and the company, and its sister company Hatters Taverns Limited, were prosecuted for breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations, section 2 HSWA and section 3 HSWA. The Prosecution had indicated that this was a case involving category 1 harm, being a high likelihood of death. Culpability was set at high. The sentencing starting point for a company the size of Hatters Hostels Limited would have been a fine of £250,000 and £160,000 for Hatters Taverns Limited
On behalf of the company, Austin made applications to dismiss the offences under section 2 and 3 HSWA as the HSE had failed to produce evidence of any material risk being created by the lack of any asbestos survey. Following this the HSE discontinued the case in respect of the section 2 and section 3 offences and re-catgorised the likelihood of harm as being ‘low’ and the case as being ‘harm category 3’. The companies pleaded guilty to offences under the Control of Asbestos regulations and in passing sentence the judge accepted that there was no evidence that the conduct of either company had actually endangered the health and safety of employees or others. A total fine of £34,000 was imposed.
Austin was instructed by Addleshaw Goddard in this case.
Austin Welch is regularly instructed to represent companies and individuals in health and safety prosecutions brought by the HSE and local authorities. He has particular expertise in representing clients in criminal prosecutions involving asbestos. Should you require advice or representation please contact David Wright, the senior clerk in Chambers.