A court in Birmingham, U.K., has fined cinema giant Vue Entertainment £750,000 ($1 million) in the verdict around a 2018 incident where a man was crushed to death under a cinema chair.
In March 2018, 24-year-old Ateeq Rafiq died after his head and neck got crushed under a seat while searching for his keys at Birmingham’s Star City cinema, a Vue property. His wife Ayesha Sardar tried to pull the chair’s motorized footrest off Rafiq’s neck, but did not succeed. He was revived by CPR at the scene but died of brain injuries a week later, on March 16.
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At an inquest held in 2019 it was revealed that the force which came down on Rafiq’s head was 3/4th of a ton. The seat was missing a bar which would have allowed Rafiq to be released manually.
In April 2021, Vue Cinemas admitted to two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act, for “failing to ensure that persons not in their employment are not exposed to risk to their health or safety” and for “failing to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.”
Sentencing was deferred to July 20, when the Birmingham Crown Court announced the fine.
“It is obviously positive mitigation on behalf of this company that they have no previous convictions or matters coming before the court,” Judge Heidi Kubik QC said. “They have a very positive health and safety record.”
“It is conceded that clearly a number of members of the public were exposed to the same risk of harm,” the judge added. “The complete lack of a risk assessment was a significant cause of the actual harm that resulted.”
The death was “an accident that never should have happened,” the judge said. Vue Entertainment were also ordered to pay £130,000 in costs.
“The death of Mr. Rafiq saddened everybody at Vue and we remain deeply sorry for the loss suffered by his family and friends,” a Vue spokesperson told Variety. “We hope that that the end of these proceedings brings some closure to them following this tragic accident. All recliners of the type involved in the incident have been removed from our cinemas and we have taken all possible steps to learn from this and ensure it could not happen again.”
Vue has 91 cinemas across the U.K. and Ireland, with over 870 screens. It is is part of the largest cinema group in Europe, Vue International.
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