Asda fined £200,000 over car park deathFather-of-three died after barrier crashed down

22 January 2008

Kenneth Farr with one of his daughters

Asda has been fined more than £200,000 after admitting health and safety breaches that led to the death of a father-of-three.

The supermarket giant said 'human error' was behind the accident that killed Kenneth Farr, 37, who was hit by an unsecured swing barrier as he drove into the car park at their Cardiff Bay branch.

Mr Farr, of Penarth, south Wales, was taken to hospital on May 14, 2002, where he died. His daughter Jessica, then aged three, escaped from the car unharmed.

Unlawful killing

His widow Helen Farr said she had wanted to see someone jailed for her husband's death, after a jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing at a 2006 inquest.

Speaking outside Newport Crown Court, Mrs Farr said: 'A mere fine is not enough. The penalty does not fit the crime.

'My life has changed forever. I was widowed at a young age with three young children. No amount of fine will ever bring my husband back.'

Children

She said her two youngest children, Jessica, now aged nine, and seven-year-old Hannah, could barely remember their father. She added: 'My children have been deprived of their father. My two youngest don't know what it is to have a father, they were only two and three at the time.'

Her daughter Emma, 13, who was at court for the hearing, said: 'Nothing's going to be the same ever again. He was wonderful and was always there for us.'

Mr Farr, of Shakespeare Avenue, was killed when a sudden gust of wind blew the barrier into his car windscreen and out of the driver's side window. The electronics engineer had told his wife he was buying a garden shed and would be back home within an hour.

Fine

Asda was fined a total of £225,000 today by Judge Nicholas Cooke QC and ordered to pay £42,000 costs after admitting failing to ensure the safety of store customers on 14 May, 2002, and failing to manage health and safety at the store.

All similar barriers were removed from Asda sites after Mr Farr's death, and the store has encouraged other retailers to follow suit, the court heard.

Mark Turner, defending, said the type of barrier that killed Mr Farr complies with Health and Safety Executive legislation, as long as it is padlocked in place and checked regularly.

Other accidents

The court heard they had caused other serious accidents however, one taking place in Bloxwich, Walsall, in January 1999 - more than three years before Mr Farr's death, and a year before the barrier was installed at the Cardiff Bay store.

Managers of other Asda stores were told to review their health and safety assessments in light of the accident, and to make sure barriers were checked.

Judge Cooke said: 'Expressions of intention were all present. The systems were all present. But a potentially fatal danger was left unaddressed.'

Manager moved

Mr Turner said: 'We have accepted unequivocally that this general store manager fell down to the extent that he didn't implement procedures that would have prevented this from happening.'

The manager was moved to another position within Asda, the court heard.

The 24-hour store had the barrier installed after illegal 'Max Power' rallies were held in the car park at night. The rallies no longer take place, so no security barriers are needed, Asda said.

'Human error'

Judge Nicholas Cooke QC said: 'The extent to which safety was borne in mind by Asda, including by low level employees, fell far short of what the public are entitled to expect.'

This was a failure of human error at local level

Asda's corporate affairs director Paul Kelly apologised to Mr Farr's family after the hearing and added: 'The risk assessments were in place, the issues had been identified and sadly this was a failure of human error at the local level.'

Mrs Farr received an undisclosed sum as compensation from the company four years ago.

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