The owner of the discount retailer Poundstretcher, is to face trial by judge and jury, following a catalogue of health and safety failures.
Abdul Aziz Tayub, one of two brothers who own the chain of discount shops, pleaded not guilty to ten charges when he appeared at Swindon Crown Court earlier this month and will stand trial in the autumn, after which the firm itself will be sentenced having pleaded guilty to 16 charges brought by Swindon Borough Council under a number of health and safety at work laws.
It is alleged by Swindon Borough Council that the company, which admitted breaching the regulations, did so with his ‘consent, connivance, or neglect’ an offence under section 37 of The Health and Safety At Work Act (HASAW)
All of the alleged offences are said to relate to a single store in the Swindon area and are all said to have taken place over a number of days during October and November 2014.
The company, which has more than 400 stores nationwide, admitted failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of staff at the premises over a range of regulations including, Work at Height, Personal Protective Equipment, Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health and the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases or Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.
Judge Peter Blair QC adjourned the case to Monday October 31 and released Mr Tayub on bail until then, he also adjourned passing sentence on the firm until after the trial of Mr Tayub has concluded.
The case is interesting on its own, as section 37 prosecutions are rare and usually involve a single breach of health and safety law. It becomes even more interesting as at the beginning of February new sentencing guidelines were issued by the Sentencing Council which will see increased fines and a real possibility of imprisonment for individuals.
All of this added to the reverse burden of proof (guilty, until proven innocent) imposed by Section 40 of the HSWA, will undoubtedly cause uneasiness across employers at the potential impact of a sentencing that may result. Uneasiness had infact already begun to increase throughout the last few days of January as several £1 million fines were imposed by the courts.