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CPS decision on Atherstone fire deaths: Three fire service managers face charges of manslaughter


Three Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service managers will face charges of manslaughter by gross negligence for the deaths of four firefighters in a warehouse in Atherstone-on-Stour in 2007, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided.

In addition, Warwickshire County Council will face a charge of failing to ensure the health and safety at work of its employees, under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley tragically lost their lives in a fire at the premises of Wealmoor (Atherstone) Ltd on 2 November 2007.

Michael Gregory, reviewing lawyer in the CPS Special Crime Division, said:

"Following a thorough investigation by Warwickshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive, I have reviewed the evidence in this case very carefully and I have decided that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to charge Paul Simmons, Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward with gross negligence manslaughter. 

"Mr Simmons and Mr Ashley were Watch Managers and Mr Woodward was a Station Manager at the time of the fire, but they all acted as incident commanders before, during and after their colleagues were sent into the burning building.  In that role they were responsible for making the operational decisions while their colleagues tried to put out the fire. 

"I have also decided that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against Warwickshire County Council for failing to protect the health and safety of its employees and that it is in the public interest to prosecute.

"I send my sincere condolences to the families of these four men who died in such terrible circumstances."

Nine other individuals, who were investigated by Warwickshire Police, have been told that there was insufficient evidence to take any action against them.

The defendants will appear at Leamington Spa Magistrates' Court on 1 April 2011.


Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  2. Ian Reid (born 11/03/63), John Averis (11/08/80), Ashley Stephens (15/06/87) and Darren Yates-Badley (07/01/83) died in the fire at the vegetable packing warehouse.
  3. Mr Reid was the Watch Manager and Mr Averis, Mr Stephens and Mr Yates-Badley were firefighters.
  4. Mr Reid died in hospital on 2 November. The bodies of Mr Averis, Mr Stephens and Mr Yates-Badley were recovered at the scene of the fire on 6 November.
  5. The CPS provided advice to Warwickshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive during the course of their investigations. Warwickshire Police passed a file of evidence to the CPS in August 2010 and submitted an outstanding expert report at the end of October 2010. The CPS received further expert advice at the end of January 2011, and received advice from a Queen's Counsel on 14 February 2011 before reaching its decision.
  6. The CPS has not received any evidence from the police relating to any suspects for deliberately starting the fire.
  7. The decision whether any prosecutions should be brought under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is one for the Health and Safety Executive.    
  8. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  9. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 12 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. In addition there are four specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Group, Counter-Terrorism, Organised Crime and Special Crime. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  10. The CPS employs around 8,316 people and prosecuted 982,731 cases with a conviction rate of 86.8% in the magistrates' courts and 80.7% in the Crown Court in 2009-20010. Further information can be found on the CPS website
  11. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media