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Two companies fined nearly £2m after death of 5 year old in damaged lift

Two companies have been sentenced following the death of a five-year-old girl who became trapped while using a lift at her home in Weymouth.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard how Alexys Brown’s family moved into the property in 2009 of which Synergy Housing Limited, as part of the Aster Group, became the owner. The property had an internal lift used by Alexys’ brother who suffers from a degenerative neurological condition and is wheelchair bound.

On the day of the accident, Alexys got into the lift to get her brother’s phone from upstairs. She put her head through a hole in the vision panel and as the lift moved upward, the five-year-old’s head got stuck between the lift and the ground floor ceiling. Alexys Brown died as a result of her injuries.

To ensure the lifts were maintained and repaired, Aster Property Limited managed a contract with Orona Limited on behalf of Synergy Housing Limited. The contractual relationship was that Synergy Housing Limited had an agreement with Orona Limited for the maintenance and repair of lifts, including the lift at the property in which the Brown family lived. Synergy Housing also had an agreement from June 2013 with Aster Property Limited, another company from the Aster Group, to arrange the maintenance and repair of lifts and to control the work.

When one of the Perspex vision panels in the lift became damaged in early 2013, this was not fixed or replaced. In May 2015 an Orona engineer visited the property to inspect the lift and noted the vision panel was damaged.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found a catalogue of failures by the three companies; Synergy Housing as the Brown family’s landlord which had primary responsibility for the safety of the lift at the property; Aster Property as the company to which responsibility for arranging lift maintenance issues fell; and Orona who were responsible for the relevant lift maintenance and repair work.

Synergy Housing Limited of Link House, West Street, Poole pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and has been fined £1m and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.

Synergy Housing accepted that its duties were not to be delegated and that the failings of Aster Property were part of its breach. The charge against Aster Property Limited of Sarsen Court, Horton Avenue, Devizes, was ordered to be left to lie on the court file and was not separately sentenced.

Orona Limited of Europa View, Sheffield Business Park, Sheffield pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and has been fined £533,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.