Directors, owner and company sentenced after fairground ride puts mother in hospital

  • Health & Safety
sentencing
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

Three individuals and a company have pleaded guilty to offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act. They were sentenced following an incident at a fairground, where a mother-of-eight was catapulted from a ride and suffered life-changing injuries.

Mrs Khadra Ali, 51, visited the Funderpark funfair in Yiewsley in April 2018, where she went on the Xcelerator ride alongside her daughter. This was a fast motion ride where visitors are fastened in by an overhead seat restraint.

However, as the ride picked up speed, Mrs Ali realised she was not suitably restrained in her seat. She screamed for help and clung on for some time before she was forcibly ejected by the motion of the ride.

Mrs Ali hit the barrier of the next ride and landed on the ground. She suffered multiple fractures to her back, hips, pelvis, ribs, both collarbones as well as internal bleeding and a significant head injury.

The extent of her injuries meant she was in a coma for the next few weeks, and in hospital for the next four months. Mrs Ali’s life-changing injuries now prevent her from doing chores or activities with her eight children.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found design flaws in the ride’s seat restraint system, which caused electrical and mechanical failings. These flaws, for which Perrin Stevens Limited was responsible, were set up in such a way that the ride control system would not detect failures.

Derek Hackett, the Xcelerator ride owner (trading as Hackett Fairs), had also failed to properly maintain the ride. This was partly due to the lack of information on inspection and maintenance in the operator’s manual.

HSE also found fault with Mr Hackett’s systems of work. On the day the incident happened, the ride was operated by just one person. A minimum of two people, one to operate and one to monitor the ride, is required by the operation’s manual. The lone operator did not check the riders’ restraint bars before starting the ride, and did not notice Mrs Ali was in trouble or stop the ride.

Overall responsibility for issuing the declaration of operation compliance (DOC) rested with DMG Technical Ltd, the ride’s appointed inspection body. David Geary, the company’s director, completed the annual inspection in 2017 and failed to identify faulty switches or maintenance concerns. Neither did he identify electrical and mechanical faults in the required Design Review of the ride.

Appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court on 7 May 2024, the defendants all pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA).

Perrin Stevens, as director of Perrin Stevens Ltd (dissolved) pleaded guilty to offences under Section 6(1)(a) and Section 6(1a)(d) of the HSWA, admitting this was attributable to his consent, connivance and/or neglect, whereby he was guilty of an offence contrary to Section 33(1)(a) by virtue of Section 37(1) of the Act. He was handed a custodial sentence of 32 weeks, suspended for 18 months, ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £11,444 in costs.

Derek Hackett pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of HSWA. He was given a custodial sentence of 18 weeks, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay £4,800 in costs.

DMG Technical Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of HSWA. The company was fined £51,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 in costs.

David Geary pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of HSWA. He also pleaded guilty as director of DMG Technical Ltd that their offence as attributable to his consent, connivance and/or neglect, whereby he was guilty of an offence contrary to Section 33(1)(a) by virtue of Section 37(1) of HSWA. He was handed a custodial sentence of 44 weeks, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay £24,000 in costs.

HSE Inspector Helen Donnelly said afterward:

“Mrs Ali was simply enjoying a day out with her children in what she expected to be a safe environment. As a result she continues to suffer pain and significant impact to her everyday life.

“Good health and safety management often requires multiple precautions being put in place, and often by different parties. This incident shows that there are serious consequences when we do not fulfil our health and safety duties and become reliant on the actions of others to ensure the safety of workers and the public. Good health and safety is a collective effort and we must all take responsibility for the role we have in keeping people safe.

“While this investigation has been long and complex, we hope Mrs Ali and her family will find some comfort with the sentence and see that justice has now been served.”

A statement from Mrs Ali’s representative said:

“The family of Khadra Ali is deeply relieved that the criminal prosecution has concluded following the tragic incident at the Funderpark Fun Fair. They are grateful to everyone who has supported them throughout this challenging process.

“While no outcome can undo the impact of the life-changing injuries on Khadra’s health and well-being, they hope this marks the beginning of their journey to rebuild their lives and provide her with the support she needs moving forward.

“The family remain committed to providing Khadra with the best quality of life possible.

“They respectfully request privacy as they continue to focus on caring for Khadra and facing the challenges ahead.”

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