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Care home charity fined £40,000 after gran fell to death

Nazareth Care Charitable Trust didn't do enough to stop the 87-year-old plunging down stairs.

Sheila Whitehead: Died after care home fall.
Sheila Whitehead: Died after care home fall. Handout

A care home charity whose disregard for health and safety law caused an ageing grandmother to fall to her death has been fined £40,000.

Nazareth Care Charitable Trust admitted not doing enough to stop 87-year-old Sheila Whitehead from losing her life at its care home in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian.

Mrs Whitehead died after falling down stairs on May 16, 2017. She had poor eyesight and managed to stumble past a rope which was supposed to hold residents back.

However, investigators found the rope wasn't strong enough to bear any great weight.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard workers at the home found her lying in a "foetal" position with blood pouring out of her head.

They phoned for an ambulance but Mrs Whitehead, who had stayed at the home for four years, died in hospital.

Health and Safety Executive investigators found that the charity should have had physical barriers at the top of the staircase.

Care home: Fined after pensioners death.
Care home: Fined after pensioners death. Google

Bosses at the trust responsible for the Nazareth House property were later charged with breaching health and safety laws. It pleaded guilty to breaching sections three and 33 of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act at a hearing last month.

On Tuesday, Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC said the law entitled him to impose a maximum fine of £2.5m.

However, he said he decided to impose the £40,000 fine because of the charity's decision to plead guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Sheriff Welsh also said he had decided to impose the sum because the charity had also carried out extensive health and safety training for its staff.

The sheriff also said he had listened to defence advocate Susan Duff's submission that the organisation was a charity and not a company dedicated to making profits.

'These factors clearly demonstrate a very responsible attitude taken by those controlling the charity to address what happened and ensure it never occurs again.'
Sheriff Welsh.

He added: "In response to this awful tragedy, the charity sent 24 managers and members of regional support teams on an Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Managing Safely Course in 2017. A further 12 managers will have been trained by the end of this year.

"Further immediate steps were taken to install locked doors with keypads at staircases across all Nazareth Care premises.

"These factors clearly demonstrate a very responsible attitude taken by those controlling the charity to address what happened and ensure it never occurs again."

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