Back to Legal Industry News

Landlord handed sentence for CO death

A landlord in Derbyshire has been given a suspended prison sentence for failings that led to the death of a tenant through carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Stephen Newton, 51, was found dead by friends at a property - The Brickyard, near Ilkeston - that he was renting from prominent animal rights campaigner Dr Victoria Martindale on December 29th 2009.

The man's partner, Susan Davies, was with him at the time of the incident and reportedly almost died of inhaling too much CO, while a neighbour was also taken ill.

An investigation led by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Dr Martindale did not arrange gas safety checks to be carried out at the property she was renting out at any point over a four year period.

Derby Crown Court was told that while the animal rights campaigner employed a letting agent to do a safety check, she decided to end the relationship and no servicing of gas appliances took place after Mr Newton and Ms Davies moved in at the end of 2005.

In May 2008, an employee of National Grid Gas visited the house in order to replace a gas meter, but noticed that the boiler was "immediately dangerous" due to fumes. However, despite leaving a letter with Ms Davies and sending a warning addressed to the landlord, this was never acted on.

For these failings, Dr Victoria Martindale pleaded guilty to seven breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.

The animal rights campaigners was also given a 16-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, before being handed 200 hours of community service, a fine of £4,000 and costs of £17,500.

Speaking after the trial ended, HSE inspector Noelle Walker said: "This was a tragic incident and came very close to being a double fatality. It was a stroke of good fortune that friends came to call and Ms Davies managed to escape with her life as a result.

"Dr Martindale completely failed in her responsibilities as a landlord. She should have taken all reasonable steps to ensure the property’s gas fittings and flues were checked for safety every year."

By Chris Stevenson