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Leeds City Council sentenced after toddler's injury

Flagpole after falling and injuring toddler showing signs of decay

Leeds City Council has been fined for safety failings after it ignored warnings from its own staff about a rotting flagpole, which later collapsed and fractured the skull of a two-year-old girl.

The toddler had been playing in the park at Otley Memorial Garden with her mother on 31 March 2012 when the 5.5m wooden flagpole suddenly fell. In addition to her head injury, the youngster suffered a broken foot and was in hospital for a week. It is thought she will need continuing checks at hospital for several years to come.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and the council pleaded guilty to breaching safety legislation at the city’s magistrates’ court last month. Appearing at Leeds Crown Court for sentencing, the authority was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £6,116 in costs.

On 12 April, the court was told HSE found that as early as November 2010 the grounds’ maintenance staff had alerted the Councils’ Bereavement Service, which manages the garden, to the fact that the pole was decaying and needed attention.

The warning that the structure was in a poor condition was repeated in Spring 2011 and led to the council’s property team being asked to inspect the flagpole, although no action was taken. In November that year, an officer attended and agreed the flagpole was in need of repair and phoned Otley town council. However, the town council had no responsibilities for the pole so nothing was done.

HSE’s investigation identified that Leeds City Council had no system in place for recording maintenance requests at the Memorial Garden in Otley or acting on issues raised.

Leeds City Council, of Calverley Street, Leeds, admitted a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.


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