National house builder Persimmon, charged after a four-year-old boy was crushed by a fireplace fitted in one of their new homes, have escaped further action due to “inconsistencies” in the inquiry.
Matthew Green, died from chest injuries when the fireplace stone mantel fell on him at the Persimmon-built family home in Towcester on 15 October 2005. He was taken to Northampton General Hospital by air ambulance, but later died from his injuries.
Persimmon escape prosecution after the four-year-old boy died due to a defect in a new home they built.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) charged Persimmon Homes with a health and safety breach, which the company denied. An HSE spokesman confirmed “the charge against Persimmon has been dropped. It emerged there were inconsistencies in the way HSE had treated Persimmon Homes compared to other companies who had had fireplaces installed by Stonemason KD Childs. The decision was therefore taken to withdraw the charges against Persimmon Homes.”
Matthew’s parents said they were “at a loss to understand” and felt “justice has not been achieved”.
Kristian Childs, whose company KD Childs of Northampton fitted the fireplace, pleaded guilty in April 2012 at Northampton Crown Court. The court heard the fireplace was held in place with small patches of mortar, rather than proper metal fixings, and it came away from the wall. In June 2013 Mr Childs was fined £7,500 and also ordered to pay £2,500 costs in June 2013.
Speaking after the sentencing hearing, Alan Craddock, head of operations for the HSE’s Midlands construction division, said:
“This was a tragic incident, made so much worse by the fact it could have been so easily prevented. Mr Childs was well aware of the risks of falling fireplaces yet failed to take the correct steps to ensure the fireplace he fitted was safe, with appalling consequences.”
A statement from the Green family said:
“We have been fighting for justice for Matthew for over seven years and major inconsistencies in the way in which HSE have investigated this case have ultimately led to this case being dropped. While we are grateful to HSE for pursuing the responsible parties, we do feel that had this been investigated in a different way then the charges against Persimmon Homes would not have been dropped. We will never get over the needless and preventable death of our son and do not feel that justice has in any way been achieved by this outcome.”