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Electrician fined just £1000 for the death of young mother

Electrician fined just £1000 for the death of young mother

1st April 2014

An electrician whose blunders led to a young mother being electrocuted and killed while mopping up leaking water in her kitchen has avoided jail and been fined just £1,000.

Neil Hoult, 53, signed off the faulty wiring which caused Emma Shaw to receive a huge 230-volt electric shock when water poured into her kitchen.

Tragic Ms Shaw, 22, was battling to stop her home being flooded after her boiler leaked on December 14, 2007.

The mum-of-one was trying to turn off her stopcock but suffered a ‘catastrophic’ shock while her one-year-old son Brayden played in the living room nearby.

Her body was discovered by her boyfriend Andrew Cross when he returned to their flat off Grafton Road in West Bromwich, West Midands.

Mr Cross, 32, had rushed back from work after Ms Shaw sent him frantic text messages about the damaged pipe, saying: ‘the electrics were sparking’.

A court heard the supermarket worker’s death was caused by a catalogue of blunders by ‘negligent’ electricians who worked on the ‘inadequate’ boiler.

The block of one and two bedroom flats had been built less than two years earlier in 2006 and a company called Anchor Electrical and Building Services were responsible for all the insulations in the building.

Electrician’s mate Christopher Tomkins carried out electrical insulation tests in the flat where Miss Shaw lived on March 8, 2006.

Tomkins, 52, who worked for Anchor, said the circuits were safe and also signed a document to say he had exercised reasonable care.

His work was then confirmed as accurate by qualified supervisor Neil Hoult, 53, who agreed the electrical circuits were problem-free.

Tomkins and Hoult, both from Rowley Regis, West Midlands, went on trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court last month accused of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Hoult was found guilty of the charge on Friday while co-accused Tomkins was cleared by a jury.

But Hoult avoided jail yesterday and was instead ordered to pay a £1,000 fine – the only penalty available under the Act.

Passing sentence, Judge Michael Dudley explained law set out he could only fix an amount the defendant could afford to pay within 12 months, which is why it ‘may seem light’.

The judge told Hoult: ‘You have been convicted of a grave breach of duty.

‘The testing of electrical circuits is absolutely vital. You were responsible for the failures in checking paperwork.

‘Because of your failures and those of others who created this situation, you failed to detect a metal stud frame behind a plaster board at the house was live for a period of some 18 months.

‘There was a leak in the boiler, the water soaked the carpet and that too became live and led to the inevitable death of Emma Shaw.

‘I accept there are a number of other individuals who are as culpable as you.’

The court heard that during the construction of the flat a screw used to attach plasterboard to the metal frame in the wall in the store cupboard penetrated a cable causing it to become live.

As a result of the blunder, when Miss Shaw’s boiler leaked, the puddle of water in her store cupboard crept under the skirting board and touched the frame – meaning it was also live.

Ms Shaw, who worked in a local Asda, was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

After the case, Ms Shaw’s angry mum Diane Potter, 49, described the sentence as a ‘joke’ outside court.

She said: ‘I am so very disappointed. It just does not seem right to fine someone only £1,000 for such a terrible thing.

‘That is a very small price to pay for a death.

It has been over six years since I lost Emma and I haven’t really been able to grieve.  But now at last I have closure.’