Company fined £90,000 after free-standing wall collapsed, killing teenager in Aldershot

16-year-old Reece Gething died on 13 February 2020. Credit: Family handout

A steel gate company has been fined £90,000 for breaching health and safety regulations after a free standing wall collapsed, killing a teenager in Aldershot in Hampshire.

16-year-old Reece Gething died when the wall came down on top of him as he was chatting with friends outside outside Ford Mears & Partners, in Grosvenor Road on 13 February 2020.

The Staines Steel Gate Company, which is no longer operating, admitted failing to comply with section three of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974

The court heard that the firm had installed and attached a chain to the previously repaired free-standing wall to discourage unauthorised parking.

It also heard that free-standing walls are known to fail, and therefore a competent contractor employed to fit a chain would be expected to carry out an appropriate risk assessment of the task to ensure work could be safely carried out, but this didn't happen.

The company failed to take any reasonably practicable precautions.

The wall next to the building. Credit: ITV Meridian

Detective Supt David West of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary read a statement outside court on behalf of Reece's family.

It read: "Our son Reece was a big-hearted, cheeky boy, who was full of energy and full of life. Reecey was an outdoorsy boy - he loved playing pool and going carp fishing.

"He was loved by his siblings, and he adored them. He was very patient with younger children and would always play football with the little ones or push them on the swings. He was a normal, loving, annoying brother.

"Reece wasn't an angel - he didn't enjoy school and he rebelled against authority, as many kids his age do. He was in his final year at Heath End School when he died, and he was looking forward to the future, and planned to start work, labouring for a family friend.

"His younger siblings, Tia and Tyler miss their older brother hugely - his death has left a huge hole in all our hearts. His older brother Callum has used Reece's name as one of the middle names for his baby son.

"As a family, we hope that the end of this court case will bring us some closure to be able to grieve for our son, and the life we thought he would live. He will live on in all our hearts, and in the memories, we have of him.

"We also hope that this prosecution will highlight the dangers of freestanding walls and will mean that other families do not have to go through the pain that we have endured for the last three years."

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Councillor Maurice Sheehan, Rushmoor Borough Council's deputy leader and Cabinet member for operational services said: "Today, The Recorder of Winchester, Her Honour Judge Angela Morris sentenced The Staines Steel Gate Company Ltd, which had been located in Ruskin Road, Staines to a fine at Winchester Crown Court.

"Section three of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 places a duty on every employer to make sure people not employed by them are not exposed to risks to their health or safety.

"This is an important case because, at the heart of it, is a family mourning the loss of their young son. We hope that by bringing this case to its conclusion, it will help to provide some closure to Reece's grieving family and friends following this tragic incident three years ago.

"This case highlights the dangers of free-standing walls and their structural safety. This company failed to assess the condition of the wall, that had been previously damaged, and then attached a chain to it without recognising the inherent risks or seeking advice, which could have prevented this tragedy.

"This sends a clear message to companies and individuals to use appropriate industry guidance to carry out the required risk assessments and implement required controls. The law is there to protect everyone, and we will take appropriate enforcement action, where necessary.

"We hope Reece's legacy is that no-one else ever loses their life in this way again."

A compensation order of £15,120 was made to Reece’s mother and an order for prosecution costs of £52,853 was also made.