The cinema giant Vue Entertainment has been fined a total of £750,000 for safety breaches after a customer became fatally trapped in a chair.
Ateeq Rafiq, 24, passed away in hospital in March 2018 after his neck was crushed under the powered chair, which was soon discovered to have a blown fuse in its control box.
The Crown Court in Birmingham heard how the father-of-two crouched down in search for his keys and phone, unaware that the foot-rest at Vue’s cinema was not able to be lifted by hand.
An inquest held in 2019 was told that other luxury seats at the Star City leisure complex in Birmingham had a leg-rest that could not be lifted up, due to being fitted with a different actuator that allows movement.
Vue, who’s headquarters are based in London, pleaded guilty earlier this year after an investigation was completed by Birmingham City Council, reports Manchester Evening News.
As well as failing to ensure the health and safety of persons not employed by the company in connection with the installation, maintenance and use of powered cinema seating, Vue admitted failing to make a “suitable and sufficient” risk assessment of a number of faulty seats.
Fining Vue Entertainment, which was also ordered to pay £130,000 in costs, Judge Heidi Kubik QC said Mr Rafiq had died in “an accident that never should have happened”.
The judge said: “Nothing I say can ameliorate the loss suffered by his wife and family.
“It is conceded that clearly a number of members of the public were exposed to the same risk of harm.
“The complete lack of a risk assessment was a significant cause of the actual harm that resulted.”
Accepting various mitigating factors advanced on behalf of Vue, the judge added: “It is obviously positive mitigation on behalf of this company that they have no previous convictions or matters coming before the court.
“They have a very positive health and safety record.”
In a statement issued after it was fined, Vue said: “The death of Mr Rafiq saddened everybody at Vue and we remain deeply sorry for the loss suffered by his family and friends.
“We hope that the end of these proceedings brings some closure to them following this tragic accident.
“All recliners of the type involved in the incident have been removed from our cinemas and we have taken all possible steps to learn from this and ensure it could not happen again.”
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