UK & World News
Firefighters Killed: Council Fined Over Blaze
Warwickshire County Council has been fined £30,000 following a warehouse fire in which four firemen died.
The local authority was sentenced for health and safety breaches linked to the blaze in Atherstone-on-Stour in November 2007.
Mr Justice MacDuff said the fine reflected deficiencies in record-keeping and information given to fire crews at the time of the tragedy.
During his sentencing at Stafford Crown Court, the judge described the deaths as a "dreadful accident" caused by a series of mishaps and failures which occurred together.
The council had pleaded guilty in January this year to a charge brought under the Health and Safety at Work Act following an inquiry.
Although the council pleaded guilty on a limited basis, the charge alleged it had failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees contrary to Section 2 of the Act.
The sentencing came seven months after three fire service managers were cleared of manslaughter at the same court in relation to the blaze at a vegetable packing plant.
A jury cleared Adrian Ashley, 45, and 51-year-old Timothy Woodward of gross negligence manslaughter after hearing six weeks of evidence about the deaths of Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley, John Averis and Ian Reid.
A third defendant, 50-year-old Watch Manager Paul Simmons, was acquitted of manslaughter on the directions of the judge part-way through the trial.
The decision to prosecute the senior firefighters was criticised immediately after the trial by Chief Fire Officer Graeme Smith, the head of Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, who claimed the defendants had been "treated like common criminals".
The inquiry into the blaze is estimated to have cost around £4.6m, with much of the bill incurred during efforts to recover evidence from the scene of the tragedy.