Manslaughter charges to be brought against fire-service bosses
Three fire-service managers are to face manslaughter charges in relation to the deaths of four fire-fighters in a warehouse blaze in 2007, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced today (28 February).
Paul Simmons, Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward, of the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, will appear before Leamington magistrates on 1 April to answer charges that they were grossly negligent in sending colleagues Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley into the burning building in Atherstone-on-Stour on 2 November 2007. The four men lost their lives in the blaze, which broke out in a vegetable store at the premises of Wealmoor (Atherstone).
On the day, Paul Simmons and Adrian Ashley were watch managers, and Timothy Woodward was station manager but, according to the CPS, all three acted as incident commanders “before, during and after their colleagues were sent into the burning building”.
Michael Gregory, reviewing lawyer in the CPS Special Crime Division, added: “In that role they were responsible for making the operational decisions while their colleagues tried to put out the fire.”
The incident was the subject of a thorough investigation by the Warwickshire Police and the HSE, on the basis of whose findings the CPS decided there was sufficient evidence, and that it was in the public interest, to charge the three men with manslaughter by gross negligence.
It also found that there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against Warwickshire County Council for failing to protect the health and safety of employees. The council will therefore face a charge under section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, also brought by the CPS.
The decision to prosecute was welcomed by Warwickshire Police, which said: “This has been a long and complex investigation and the CPS has reviewed it with due diligence before making its decision. The judicial process has now begun and we must await the outcome.
“Our thoughts are with the families of the four fire-fighters who died.”
Ian Reid died in hospital on 2 November 2007. The bodies of John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley were recovered at the scene of the fire four days later.
Following the incident, the HSE served an Improvement Notice on Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, giving it four months to improve the way information on hazards in buildings and the location of water supply is provided at incidents.
The CPS has not received any evidence from the Police relating to anyone suspected of deliberately starting the fire.