Published: 4th November, 2010
by RICHARD OSLEY
CAMDEN Council have appeared in court to face a health and safety charge relating to a wall which collapsed, crushing a two-year-old boy.
Saurav Ghai was killed under the bricks of the perimeter wall of the council-owned Wendling estate in Southampton Road, Gospel Oak during windy weather in January 2007.
James Ageros, appearing for the Health and Safety Executive, told Southwark Crown Court on Friday the wall was so weak that it could be knocked down by a “hefty push from an average-sized person”.
He said: “The council had no basis for the assumption that the wall was safe.”
The council, in defence, said it had hired chartered building surveyors to look at the wall but defects had not been uncovered in the run-up to the tragedy. No immediate risk was flagged up to council managers in a stock condition survey.
Dominic Kay, for the council, told the court, said: “It was looked at every five years by chartered building surveyors.”
He said that Camden had reviewed the level of supervision of walkabout checks on its estates for damage and tripping hazards, but the defence is at odds with the prosecution over the broader points of the case.
Mr Kay said the council did not accept the wall was a “conspicuous danger.”
Camden is facing one charge under the Health and Safety Act. No plea was entered during the 15-minute hearing and the case is unlikely to be heard in full until early next year.
Nearly four years after little Saurav’s death, his parents sat in court again listening to the details of the tragedy. They have already heard details at a coroner’s inquest of how the wall was not “tied” properly and was effectively a free-standing panel. The inquest heard a firm of subcontractors who had completed repair work on it in the past could not be traced to appear before the coroner.
Saurav had been collected by his childminder from nursery and was on his way back to the family home in Belsize Park when the bricks collapsed.
He was later pronounced dead at the Royal Free Hospital.
His parents, Vinay and Desiree Ghai, later donated £10,000 to the hospital to thank staff for trying to save their son’s life.
A council spokeswoman said: “There is to be a further hearing in January when various technical issues relating to the charge will be further considered.
“Our deepest sympathy remains with Saurav’s family, and we offer our condolences to all those affected.”