School admits health and safety failure after woman's death

The Leys School, Cambridge

The Leys School has admitted a failure of health and safety duty which led to a woman's death. - Credit: Google Street View

An independent secondary school has admitted a failure of health and safety duty which led to the death of a woman.

Vera Stanton tripped over a low wall alongside a path at The Leys School in Cambridge. She hit her head and died from her injuries six days later.

Through its advocate Prashant Popat, The Leys and St Faith’s Schools of The Fen Causeway, pleaded guilty to the charge of failing in its undertakings to ensure people other than employees were not exposed to risk to their health and safety.

In essence, it needed to make sure pedestrian areas were adequately lit and free from trip hazards.

Gordon Menzies, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, told Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on Monday: “This is an offence of risk that was brought about by a poorly illuminated low wall.

“It was a state of affairs that lasted for some time.”

He added: “There was little consideration, if any, of risk.”

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The court was told that the 30cm high wall ran alongside a path leading to the site’s Great Hall and was built during a landscaping redevelopment in 2013.

Mr Menzies said that, at the time, people walking along the path could suffer from glare from other light sources and a staff member had pointed out that “no one looks to see where they are going”.

On February 17, 2017, Mrs Stanton and her daughter Rachel Lawson were among a group of visitors on the path in darkness.

“Mrs Stanton tripped and fell over the wall. She suffered injuries to her head,” said Mr Menzies. “When Miss Lawson went to help her, she tripped over too.

“Tragically, Mrs Stanton died of her injuries some six days later.”

It was a case of medium culpability by the school, suggested Mr Menzies, and the court’s sentencing powers were unlimited. He said the financial position of the co-educational boarding and day school would be looked at.

Mr Popat said the school agreed the level of culpability but feels sentencing should be at the lower end of that scale.

The case was adjourned to March 31.