Workman guilty in connection with the death of Emma Shaw


Following the fatal electrocution of a 22-year-old mother in her home in West Bromwich in 2007, a supervising electrician, Neil Hoult, aged 53, has been found guilty at Wolverhampton Crown Court of a health and safety offence in connection with her death and fined £1,000. A second electrician, Christopher Tomkins, aged 52, was found not guilty of a similar offence.

Emma Shaw had moved into 42 Jefferson Place, West Bromwich in March 2007. Twelve months earlier in March 2006, electricians had conducted tests and inspections on the electrical installations within the flat. The test and inspection results were forwarded to the on-site supervisor Neil Hoult who approved them and issued a certificate to certify that the electrical installation in 42 Jefferson Place were safe and did not pose any danger to anyone who used it.

On 14 December 2007, Emma Shaw had a water leak in the flat and therefore she decided to turn the water off via the stopcock. As soon as she touched the metal pipework she received a catastrophic electric shock which killed her. Emma's 23 month old son was in the living room of the flat at the time.

Expert investigation revealed that, due to a cable being penetrated by a screw during the construction phase of the development, it had caused a metal frame inside the flat to become live and charged to 240 volts. The testing and inspection in March 2006 should have revealed the fault and allowed it to be put right.

The police had initially arrested the defendants Hoult and Tomkins in 2009 and initially they were suspected of gross negligence manslaughter. However, the Crown Prosecution Service informed the police that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for this particular offence.

The defendants were later charged with an offence under Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which imposes a duty on an employee to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and those who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work.

Mark Paul, Area Legal Advisor for West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said:

"The purpose of electrical testing and inspection is to detect any hazards. By signing off the testing records, Neil Hoult certified that the electrical installations in Emma Shaw's new build flat were problem free and safe. This was clearly not the case.

"The Health and Safety Act imposes a duty on any employee to take reasonable care for the safety of those who may be affected by his/her acts or omissions at work. Breaching this duty, like in this case, will continue to result in the prosecution of the employee.

"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Emma Shaw. The pain and grief they have endured following the tragic loss of Emma is difficult to imagine. We hope that the conviction of the electricians' supervisor and the knowledge that the criminal proceedings are finally at an end will at least bring them some relief."