West Berkshire Council

Poundstretcher fined £1million for Health & Safety Breaches

Poundstretcher Ltd has been fined £1M for Health and Safety breaches at three stores including Newbury.

Emergency exit blocked at Poundstretcher in Newbury

Issued on: 20 December 2017.

Following three separate investigations Poundstretcher Ltd of Trident Business Park, Leeds Road, Huddersfield, has been convicted for a series of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.  The counts, which included three breaches at the Newbury store, investigated by the Environmental Health service, which works with communities across Bracknell, West Berkshire and Wokingham, related to the way the company operated its stocking of stores and its failure to properly train staff.

Poundstretcher Ltd had previously pleaded guilty to a total of 24 counts brought against the company by three separate authorities following investigations into breaches of health safety laws at stores in Newbury, Swindon and Newhaven.

The investigation at the Newbury Retail Park store followed a visit undertaken by Environmental Health Officers in December 2014. At the time of the visit officers found that emergency exits were blocked and excessive stock was stored in a dangerous manner. Subsequent enquiries revealed that the company did not follow its own safety procedures.

On 12 December 2017 the company appeared before the Portsmouth Crown Court to be sentenced. In delivering his sentence Judge Hetherington said: 'To blame the local management is not only deeply unattractive, coming from a major employer employing some 6,000 people, but, in my judgment, on the evidence I heard, quite unfair.  And it is, in any event, a circular argument - it is part of higher management's function to see to it that local management is in place and performing to a proper standard.'

He went on to say: 'This complacent attitude was highlighted by the way in which senior management, often at director/company secretary level, dealt with requests for interview by enforcing authorities. Whilst, as a matter of strict law, the company may have been entitled not to co-operate, their consistent failure properly to engage with and answer questions spoke volumes as to the company's attitude towards the role of the enforcing authorities.'

The defendant was fined a total of £1 Million which included a penalty of £333,334 in respect of the three offences relating to the Newbury store.  A costs order in the sum of £65,767.74 was also made.

Councillor Norman Jorgensen, Chairman of the Joint Public Protection Committee, said: 'The importance of the work that the Service carries out to ensure that health and safety laws are complied with is demonstrated by this case. This conviction and penalty highlights the importance of taking steps to protect the health and safety of employees and members of the public as well as emphasising the importance that employee training plays in this process. It also represents an excellent example of three authorities working together to put the totality of the offending before the court. We are grateful to our colleagues from Swindon Borough Council and Lewes District Council for their assistance.'

For more information contact the Lead Officer - Community Engagement (Public Protection Partnership)