A stonemason whose company fitted a mantelpiece which collapsed and killed a four-year-old boy has today been fined £7,500 after he admitted breaching health and safety legislation.
Kristian Childs, aged 42, who traded as K D Childs Stonework of Billing Road, Northampton, pleaded guilty at Northampton Crown Court in April last year to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
His company fitted a stone mantelpiece in a house built by Persimmon Homes, which later collapsed and crushed four-year-old Matthew Green.
On October 15, 2005, Matthew’s father was greeting friends at the front door of their home in Towcester when he heard “a loud crash” from the living room. Matthew was found lying under the mantel, which had broken in two and crushed him.
He suffered severe injuries when the 110lb (50 kg) stone lintel fell on him and was taken to Northampton General Hospital by air ambulance but died later.
A lack of mortar fixing the mantelpiece to the fireplace contributed to the death when it collapsed on top of him causing fatal chest injuries, an inquest later found.
More than six years after the death, Childs was charged under the Health and Safety Act and in April 2012 he pleaded guilty to failing to discharge his duty with the design and installation of the fireplace, thereby exposing Matthew to danger.
Charges were also brought against the home builder Persimmon Homes (Midlands) and its York-based parent company, Persimmon Homes.
Matthew’s parents had bought the house from Persimmon Homes in 2003.
However, earlier this year, the charges against Persimmon were dropped after “inconsistencies” in the HSE’s investigation were revealed.
Childs was this afternoon fined was fined £7,500 and told to pay £2,500 costs.
In a statement released afterwards, Matthew’s parents, David and Gail, said: “On October 15, 2005 we tragically lost our four-year-old son Matthew due to an accident that should have never happened.
“Due to poor workmanship, no industry standards and a lack of risk assessments, we feel the house builder, Persimmon Homes, and the fireplace installer, K D Childs, were responsible for the death of our son.
“Unfortunately, due to irregularities in the HSE investigation, the case against Persimmon Homes was dropped in April 2013. However, Mr Childs has pleaded guilty and has now been sentenced to only a £7,500 fine.
“We have had to wait nearly eight years for the matter to eventually be finalised through the court which is, in our opinion, far too long, and has prolonged the suffering and distress for our family.
“Whatever the outcome of the HSE prosecutions, nothing will bring back Matthew, but we want to ensure that something is done to prevent incidents like this happening to any other child in the future.
“Since the inquest in 2008, we are aware of at least two further children that have been tragically killed in incidents involving fireplaces.
“We cannot help but feel that had the matter been dealt with more promptly and in a different manner by all those involved, at least one of these needless deaths may have been prevented.”
Northampton Crown Court heard that Mr Childs was aware of the need to ensure fireplaces were properly secured after two others he had fitted at other properties were found to be insecure by the home owners.
After the hearing Alan Craddock, head of operations for the HSE’s Midlands construction division said: “This was a tragic incident that devastated a young family, made so much worse by the fact it could have been so easily prevented.
“Every stone used in a fireplace must have a mechanical fixing, such as a steel bracket and screws, to hold them together and against the wall. A few small patches of mortar are not acceptable because it cannot guarantee a secure bond.
“Mr Childs was well aware of the risks of falling fireplaces yet failed to take the correct steps to ensure the fireplace he fitted at Coulthard Close was safe, with appalling consequences.”