Bouncy castle death update: Prison sentences for gross negligence manslaughter

Published: 20 Jun 2018

As reported widely in the press recently, husband and wife William and Shelby Thurston, were found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence over the death of a child - Summer Grant in March 2016.

The two were found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter last month, and were this week sentenced to three years jail time at Chelmsford Crown Court. They were also sentenced to 12 months in prison for failing to discharge a duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act, to run concurrently.

Summer aged 7, died in hospital after she was rescued from an inflatable bouncy castle which blew away with Summer still inside.  The castle bounced for 300m in Harlow, Essex.

The Thurston’s, failed to ensure the bouncy castle was “adequately anchored” to the ground, the court heard.

The court were told “They did not monitor weather conditions to ensure it was safe to use on the day” Mr Thurston said he was aware that Storm Katie was due to arrive two days later, but believed it was “not hugely significant”.

This unfortunate incident highlights the need for adequate risk assessments, safe systems of work, and stringent opening and closing safety checks. Factors such as equipment malfunction and poor weather conditions also need to be taken into account when planning events where bouncy castles are used.

Since the inception of the Sentencing Guidance, magistrates and judges calculate fines primarily on the basis of a convicted firm’s turnover rather than profits or assets, with criteria also in place for passing of individual jail sentences. Levels of culpability, levels of harm presented by risk and turnover are the main criteria used for passing sentence. Mitigating circumstances such as company’s previous health and safety record and failing or acting on advice can also affect the sentence. It is important to remember that whilst actual harm may not have occurred, the offense lies in not managing the risk

To ensure that your business meets legal compliance, contact CSC today and our team of experts will be happy to provide assistance.