Punishment just 'a slap on the wrist' for trampoline park bosses, says victim left with broken back

A woman who was left with a broken back says the two former directors "got off lightly" with a fine and a community service order.

A woman who was left with a broken back after spending just five minutes at a trampoline park says the two former directors "got off lightly" with a fine and a community service order.

Louise Wright, a Paralegal from Formby in Liverpool, was attending a friends birthday party at Flip Out Chester on 27 January 2017 when she broke her back.

At least 270 accidents - including 11 people who sustained fractured spines - were recorded at Flip Out Chester in just seven-weeks between December 2016 and February 2017.

The park, run by David Elliot Shuttleworth, 34, and Matthew Melling, 33, had a “cavalier” approach to safety, despite multiple people being injured on a daily basis.

Shuttleworth and Melling were given community sentences after 11 people broke their backs and hundreds more injured at Flip Out Chester.

A number of young people suffered significant injuries after using a piece of equipment known as the Tower Jump at the Chester Gates Business Park venue near Ellesmere Port.

It is believed the Tower Jump - where people jumped from the 13ft into into a foam-filled pit - was the largest of its kind in the world at that time.

Louise said: "I saw the jump tower, and I thought; oh that looks fun, let's do that.

"We went for the higher one, because if you're going to do it, do it. But I must have landed in a hole."

Chester Flip Out, pictured in 2017

After landing, Louise was in severe pain and was unable to speak. Despite this, the team at Flip Out did not call her an ambulance.

Louise said: "I had to get myself out. I remember the person who was telling people to jump just looked at me like; 'what are you doing?'

"I was just really embarrassed."

Eventually, the staff called for an ambulance.

Louise said: "One of the [paramedics] had a go at one of the general managers at the time, saying they'd been there so many times and they weren't happy."

Louise was taken to A&E, and after a year of hospital visits and GP appointments it was eventually discovered that she had broken her back.

Louise was left with a broken back after jumping off of the tower.

On 1 February 2017, the park shut down due to the hundreds of injuries.

Louise said: "If I'd of known about that, I never would have gone."

Following an investigation, after medics alerted the council, former directors Shuttleworth and Melling admitted health and safety offences.

Shuttleworth was fined £6,500 and Melling £6,300, with each ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid community service.

Also, Shuttleworth was ordered to pay £50,000 costs and Melling £10,000 costs, to go towards the £250,000 prosecution costs and council investigation.

Judge Michael Leeming said “The sentence will be less than many people hoped for and many people think you deserve” but he was constrained by the law.

For Louise, the two directors' punishment pales in comparison to the suffering they've caused.

She said: "I don't think I can put into words how angry I am. They got off lightly, they can't pretend it's impacted their life because it hasn't. Not the way its impacted everyone else's.

"I'm just one of the many, many people that broke their back. People broke their arms, people broke their ribs, their legs.

"But I would say that all the work the Council has done has beeen absolutely amazing... They've been in everyone's corner."

While both defendants pleaded guilty, Louise said she's seen little evidence either of them are sorry.

She said: "I've never heard anything from them. No one I know who has been injured ever has.

"They've had multiple chances to speak to people in there. They've walked past us many times, ignored us, and didn't seem sorry at all."

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