Durham cricket club fined £18k over woman's stand collapse injuries

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The stand where a hole appeared at Durham cricket groundImage source, Richard Sellers/PA
Image caption,
About 200 spectators were moved to other parts of the ground

Durham County Cricket Club has been fined £18,000 after a spectator was badly hurt when a stand partially gave way during an England international.

A woman suffered serious injuries in September 2017 when she fell and was taken to hospital with two others.

They were at the North East Terrace stand at the Emirates Riverside, when decking fell through.

Chairman Lord Ian Botham said it was a "mistake" and the club "apologises for this enormously embarrassing incident".

As well as the fine for failing to discharge a duty to a person other than an employee, Judge HK Crowson ordered the club to pay costs of £94,132 within three months and a surcharge of £170.

Image source, @ChristianCeriso/PA
Image caption,
The area around the hole was quickly cleared by stewards and police

He said the club had since made changes to make the ground safer and added: "This is not a case where a fine must be increased above the norm to force a club to understand safety, when obligation is already understood."

The judge said "it was clear it [the club] had systems in place" to check the safety of the stands and it had "the safety of the spectators at heart".

The club was hosting a Twenty20 match between England and the West Indies at the Chester-le-Street venue, when the four spectators were injured.

Prosecutor James Hill told Teesside Crown Court one of the four had still not come forward but reported "putting his foot through a board" before the match.

He said 22 boards were replaced in the two days before the match, and these were put in a skip but not analysed.

The court was told the stand was bought from a company called Arena in 2012 and had been previously used during the 2012 Olympics in London.

Mr Hill said the cricket club did not have a contract with Arena but it sent out a staff member to demonstrate how to replace the boards.

Injured knee

The club also worked with Jasper Kerr, an engineering consultancy, which had previously carried out visual inspections and, in the days before the incident, had "sent an email to the club to ask Arena if they were happy with the deflection on the boards and if they were satisfied the standard [of the boards] was safe".

"It is not clear whether they realised Arena did not have a contract to maintain the stand," Mr Hill added.

The court heard spectators entered the ground at about 16:00 BST on 16 September, and one soon reported his foot had fallen through a board and his knee had been injured.

Mr Hill said the board was replaced but the man could not be found. He added that just after 20:00, another board had "failed" but no-one was injured.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The incident happened at Durham's cricket ground in Chester-le-Street

The prosecutor said the third incident, which injured three spectators, happened just after 21:00, shortly before the match finished.

He said: "A woman was with her husband. They stood up to allow another person to get back to their seat. Her husband stepped into the aisle, and she turned sideways and the board she was on collapsed and she fell through to the ground.

"Eyewitnesses estimated she fell around 20ft but investigators say it was 3ft.

"The man she let pass described how the board gave way like a trap door. He was next to her as it gave way, but he was able to grab the back of the seats in front, stopping himself falling all of the way through and he was helped by others."

Metal rod

Mr Hill said that as spectators turned to help, another board two rows in front also fell through. Another woman stopped herself falling through by "putting her arms either side of the gap".

Three people were taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where the first woman underwent surgery to have a metal rod inserted into her leg after suffering a fractured femur.

The court heard the man suffered a torn hamstring and the second woman sustained bruising and what she described as "psychological harm".

"Only after this [the last incident] happened the stand was evacuated and closed," Mr Hill added.

He added a spokesman for the club said a safety officer "always carried out checks 24 hours before an event and found no issues".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Chairman Lord Botham said the club was "desperately sorry"

In a statement, former England star Lord Botham described the incident as "embarrassing" and a "mistake".

The statement, read out by Simon Antrobus, defending, said: "No-one at this club would have knowingly put spectators at risk. What happened was an absolute shock to everybody at the club.

"I would hope that the court would appreciate that we are desperately sorry that the people that we serve come to watch the game at its highest level suffered injury through no fault of their own but the standards of the stands.

"It was a genuine mistake. The club wholeheartedly apologises for this enormously embarrassing incident."

Mr Antrobus told the court a safety officer had carried out an investigation on the stand before the match and did not find the boards to have the same "spongy" feel of those that had been replaced earlier in the week.

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