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Pair guilty of health and safety breaches after nightclub death fall

Two people, and the company, responsible for operating a former Cannock nightclub have admitted health and safety offences - following the death of a customer.

Ryan Shenton, fell 40 feet to his death from the elevated service yard / car park area located to the rear of what was then the Quartz Nightclub in Church Street, Cannock on Saturday 19 August in 2017.

The 25-year-old left the club via the exit leading out onto the second-floor service area and went unnoticed by door staff as he did so. It is not known how Ryan came to fall but his body was discovered later the same morning at around 8.30am by three members of staff carrying out security checks on the rear courtyard of the Barclays Bank branch.

Mark Harrison was the registered company director and company secretary of Quartz 23 Limited. He had operated a nightclub from the premises for a number of years under different entities. Gemma Williams was not a director, but as well as being the lessee of the premises she described herself as being in charge of managing the club, being in partnership with Mr  Harrison and having the day-to-day running of the club. She was also the designated premises supervisor under the Licensing Act.

Quartz 23 Limited pleaded guilty to contravening Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in that it failed to conduct its undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that persons not in its employment were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

Harrison and Williams pleaded guilty to contravening regulation 3(1)(b) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, by failing to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of persons not in their employment.

At Stafford Crown Court, Judge Michael Chambers QC sentenced Quartz 23 Limited to a fine of £14,000 and a contribution of £10,000 towards Cannock Chase Council’s legal costs; Mark Harrison of Haroldgate, Whitchurch was sentenced to a community order of two years including 120 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £2,500 towards costs, whilst Gemma Williams also of Haroldgate, Whitchurch,  received  a community order of two years including 120 hours of unpaid work and a rehabilitation activity requirement of up to 15 days.

Environmental Health Officer Laura Nichols, who led the investigation for Cannock Chase Council, and brought the prosecution, said: “There was a poor safety culture at Quartz which resulted in little regard for the health and safety of those affected by its undertakings. There was no health and safety policy in place, no allocation of responsibilities for health and safety and inadequate arrangements in place for assessing significant risks. There was no consultation with employees and no ownership or direction of health and safety by senior management.” 

Councillor Christine Martin, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing said:

“This is a tragic case. Ryan Shenton’s death might have been avoided had the owners of the nightclub business had in place a health and safety policy and undertaken the necessary risk assessments to help anticipate the circumstances that led to this fatality.

“Nightclubs are places to be enjoyed and make an important contribution to our night time economy. The Council expects owners and managers of venues to ensure that all patrons are kept safe. This is best done by carrying out suitable risk assessments and having well trained staff who are able to put into practice the necessary safeguards to avoid tragic situations like this one, in the first place.” 

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