A child was hurt by a falling display at a Topshop store in Glasgow just six days before a 10-year-old was killed by the same type of barrier at a branch in Reading, a jury heard today.
Sir Philip Green’s now dissolved Arcadia Group, which owned Topshop when Kaden Reddick was killed, has gone on trial accused of health and safety failings, as have the suppliers of the barrier and the shopfitters who installed it.
Prosecutor James Ageros QC told the jury the schoolgirl’s skull fracture in Glasgow should have been a warning to the companies involved but no urgency was applied to the investigation.
Kaden was killed after the 17-stone queue barrier at a Topshop store in the Oracle, Reading, landed on his head on February 13, 2017. The boy had just finished watching a film in a nearby cinema on a family outing at the time of the tragedy.
In another incident 18 months before the tragedy, another customer at a store in Manchester had their foot crushed.
The jury was shown emails between designers and engineers expressing concern for the safety of the barrier’s design – but no prototypes were ever made.
Sir Philip Green’s now dissolved Arcadia Group, which owned the Topshop chain when Kaden Reddick (pictured) was killed
Mr Ageros said Topshop, which had around 2,150 stores globally at the time, its parent company Arcadia Group, and barrier manufacturers Realm Projects Ltd were culpable for the 3ft tall and 6ft wide barrier landing on Kaden’s head.
The barrier’s fitters, Stoneforce, have already admitted the health and safety charges, but Topshop, Arcadia and Realm Projects Ltd have denied the charges against them.
The prosecutor said at the opening of the two month trial: ‘Kaden Reddick was killed when a queue barrier toppled over and hit his forehead when he was balancing on top of it.
‘At the top of the barrier were baskets encouraging shoppers to impulse-purchase. These were items attractive to children. Kaden and his younger sister went close to the barriers and were interested in what was in the baskets.
Showing the jury photographs he continued: ‘In the pictures you can see the plinth where the outer barrier was fixed with only two screws – more suitable for hanging pictures on a wall, not holding up a heavy object. It was only these two screws that held the barrier to the floor.
‘At no point during that process did anyone calculate what loads it would need to withstand in a busy shopping environment and to keep it secure on the floor.’
The barrister said the health and safety issues were ‘not a one off’.
He continued: ‘Other barriers in other Topman and Topshop stores were unstable and also presented the risk of collapse.
‘Six days before Kaden had died, a similar barrier, this time entirely unfixed, toppled over in a shop in Glasgow and a child suffered serious injuries including a fractured skull.
‘While Stoneforce (the fitters) failed to fix the barriers properly, the prosecution case is that its failures are not the only ones in this case. That’s why charges have been brought against these other three companies.
Kaden was killed after the 17-stone queue barrier at a Topshop store in the Oracle, Reading, landed on his head on February 13, 2017
‘Arcadia simply did not exercise the right level over contractors. It didn’t ensure tests around the stability of the barrier were done. It just wasn’t designed according to the right standards.
‘Realm (the manufacturers) should have considered what fixings were needed to keep the barrier secure in a busy retail store. They supplied no information at all to keep these barriers stable in the store,’ the prosecutor added, arguing that this was a breach of duty.
The prosecutor went into further details on how a similar incident, crushing a customer’s foot, had taken place in Manchester a full 18 months before Kaden’s death.
He added: ‘On April 2, 2015, a similar barrier was in the Manchester Trafford Centre Topshop. This too fell over and was un-fixed. It caused serious injury to a shopper’s foot. What the prosecution says is, plainly, the consequences could have been far more serious.
‘No investigations into safety in other stores were carried out. If that action (launching an investigation) was taken with the Glasgow incident, why not with Trafford in 2015? This ought to have put Arcadia on notice.
‘They ought to have embarked on an investigation of all barriers after that point. It was too little, too late.’
The jury was told that Arcadia’s health and safety manager, Wesley Cox, immediately travelled to the store to investigate the Glasgow barrier collapse and a decision was taken for all Topshop stores to inquire about their barriers.
The prosecutor went on to show the jury the designs of the barrier, which was installed during a store re-fitting from 2013-2014, and detailed how the original design, using metal pillar structures underneath the heavy Corian surface, was replaced with wooden-MDF structures.
The jury was shown how emails between designers and engineers expressed concern for the safety of the barrier’s design. Adjustments were made, however no prototypes were ever made.
CCTV footage of the moments before Kaden was killed by the barrier, showing him wobbling it before he swung underneath and pulled the furniture on top of his head.
The Berkshire coroner previously confirmed that Kaden died due to a traumatic head injury. The video clip was cut before his body made contact with the ground.
The boy had just finished watching a film in a nearby cinema on a family outing at the time of the tragedy
Mr Ageros said: ‘No proper consideration was given to what forces and constraints the barriers were subject to in their daily use. Arcadia never checked the condition of the barriers other than for their appearance. There were no checks during this three-year period.’
The jury was also shown several CCTV clips of the Reading Topshop, where customers had accidentally made the barrier wobble, as well as children swinging between the barriers. He alleged that Arcadia should have taken notice of these incidents in the days before the tragedy.
Topshop, Arcadia, and Realm Projects Ltd all stand accused of failure to discharge health and safety duty, failing to ensure that the design, manufacture and maintenance of the barrier did not pose a risk to the health and safety of someone not employed by them under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
All three companies deny the charges. Stoneforce Ltd, the company which installed the barriers in the shop, had earlier admitted the health and safety charges against them, the jury heard today.
If convicted, Arcadia and Topshop, which entered administration in November 2020, could face enormous fines after staff failed to test the barriers, despite the other incident with a barrier in the Glasgow store.
The trial, presided over by Judge Heather Norton, continues.