Pub landlord hampered investigation

PUBLISHED: 23:00 16 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:57 03 March 2010

A SUFFOLK publican hampered a health and safety probe into an alleged accident which left a seven-year-old boy needing hospital treatment to his foot, a court heard.

A SUFFOLK publican hampered a health and safety probe into an alleged accident which left a seven-year-old boy needing hospital treatment to his foot, a court heard.

Christopher Martin, joint licensee of The Coach and Horses Public House in Melton, admitted obstructing an investigation by health and safety officers who had received reports of an accident on the premises.

The boy's parents alerted health and safety officers at Suffolk Coastal District Council the day after the alleged incident in the car park on July 15 last year, South East Suffolk Magistrates were told.

The court heard health and safety officials visited the pub and spoke to publicans Veronica Lillicrap and Martin, but despite repeated requests didn't receive an accident report.

When officers visited the premises on November 21, Martin refused to let them question members of staff and instead became irate and threw them off the premises.

"He pushed a file of the bar counter and moved toward the officer saying get out, get out," said prosecutor Stephen Rose. The report was eventually produced in February this year.

Ian James, mitigating, said businessman Martin was of good character but it came down to a clash of personalities.

The court heard after Martin took over the pub two years ago he revamped it and turned it into a successful and profitable business with high standards.

In sentencing, chairman of the magistrates, Wally Welch, said Martin had been given written information on the powers of the officers but obstructed them by preventing them interviewing staff. But he accepted Martin had difficulties speaking to his solicitor.

Martin was given a one-year conditional discharge.

After the case Deborah Robinson, Suffolk Coastal director of environmental services, said: "In this case staff from Suffolk Coastal had received a report of an accident to a seven-year-old boy in the grounds of the pub to which an ambulance had to attend.

"Unfortunately following our first visit Mr Martin and his business partner failed to show us a copy of their accident report book despite a number of letters to their solicitors.

"A further visit was necessary to the pub but our staff were still not allowed to see the accident book, or talk to employees, even though Mr Martin and his partner were cautioned that it was an offence to obstruct our investigations.

"It is a shame that we had to take court action. But I am pleased that the magistrates backed our actions.

"I hope that this will be the start of a better working relationship with the licensees of the Coach and Horses as our officers now have to conclude their investigations into the reported accident."

Suffolk Coastal has a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to enforce health and safety regulations at the vast majority of small businesses in the district.

Martin, who has already spent £5,000 on solicitor's fees was ordered to pay £750 costs.

He refused to comment after the hearing. Meanwhile inquiries into the alleged accident are still ongoing so it is impossible to say whether any further action will be taken by Suffolk Coastal.

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