Alexys Brown tragically died on August 2015 just before midday when she suffered “horrific” head and neck injuries after getting trapped in a lift in her home.
This week in Bournemouth Crown Court the jury heard from all sides to see if the housing association and lift manufacturer was at fault.
The court ruled that Synergy Housing Ltd is to be fined £1 million pounds and Orona Ltd has been fined £533,000. Both companies were also liable for £40,000 in court costs.
Judge Stephen Climie said: “Both parties have a good record of health and safety and both have made sure that nothing like this happens again. No-one could have failed to be moved by Alexys’ mum in her statements from yesterday. The Brown’s have shown extraordinary dignity and taken the most courageous steps throughout the case. I express my own sympathy.”
Passing sentence, he listed a number of failings, including a failure to ensure the proper maintenance and repair of the lift.
“In my judgment these failings, which are commented upon and largely accepted by the defendants in their basis of plea documents, must carry with them the observation made to counsel during submissions that no one should ever lose sight of the fact that this was industrial machinery operating in a domestic setting with young children present, which should have resulted in the most careful assessment of safety measures and controls at all times,” the judge said.
“Each defendant has accepted responsibility through the basis of plea documents and has accepted that to some extent each is responsible for causing Alexys’s death.
“Between them I am satisfied that they were wholly responsible for her death and the desperate loss to her family.”
What happened to Alexys?
The court heard Alexys’s parents, Matthew and Lorraine Brown, and their children moved into the three-bedroom housing association property in 2009 because it already had the lift installed and would be of assistance to their disabled son.
“Mrs Brown described there had been a lot of faults with the lift since they moved in, with the lift buttons not working and the lift doors not opening and they had to force the door to get her son out,” Miss Lawson said.
The annual examination was last carried out in 2012 after Synergy told the insurance company the lift had been removed, and there was also confusion as to whether the Brown family had a lift or a stairlift installed.
Orona had twice quoted Synergy a price to replace the lift, but the housing association did not approve the work as it was investigating the building of a ground floor extension for the Brown family instead.
On the day in August 2015 the children’s grandmother, who was looking after them, heard the boy shouting and rushed to the scene. She tried freeing her granddaughter but was unable to and called the emergency services.
Firefighters had to cut Alexys free because there was no emergency key or handle to manually free her, the court heard.
The court heard that three months before an inspector at Orona reported that there was a cracked and smashed panel and alerted this to Synergy Housing Association, who they did nothing about it.
The Health and Safety Executive brought charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 against landlord Synergy Housing Ltd and Orona Ltd, which was contracted by Synergy to service the lift every six months and carry out maintenance.
In addition, a third-party insurance company was contracted to complete an annual inspection.
At a previous hearing, both companies pleaded guilty to a single charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The prosecutor outlined a series of failings with the lift, including the absence of a key to electronically lower it in an emergency or a handle to manually move it.
The Brown family had also not been given an instruction manual to operate the lift when they moved in.
“In short, the Crown says that the catalogue of failings by the defendant companies led to her death,” Miss Lawson said.
“The systems Synergy and Orona were operating were not rigorous enough. The Crown’s case is that there were systemic failings by the defendants.”
The judge said that there was a lack of servicing prior to the incident and there was a failure to escalate the damages of the lift that was already there.
The jury also heard that there was an issue with the emergency lowering system and a crack in the window panel however nothing was done. Defending, for Orona, the barrister said that the company has any previous convictions and this was a one-off.
It was mentioned that Orona and synergy have worked together on other lifts, this failure was a one-off.
After the sentencing a spokesperson for Orona said: “We express our deepest condolences to Alexys’ family following this terrible tragedy.”
Following the death of Alexys, the local Weymouth community rallied around her parents and raised £31,000 for Alexys’s funeral through a crowdfunding page whilst facing financial difficulties.