A ten-year-old boy was killed when a 110kg queue barrier in Topshop fell on him.
Arcadia Group, which includes Topshop, appeared in court today accused of allowing the death of little Kaden Reddick, 10, in its Reading store on February 13, 2017.
Lisa Mallett, Kaden’s mother, who had been at the store in the Oracle Shopping Centre with her mother and two daughters when Kaden died, said she had heard a “smack” before turning to see her son with the barrier on top of him.
Philip Green’s retail empire, which plunged into administration at the end of last month, could be unrepresented at a trial where they faced a potentially massive fine if convicted.
Reading County Council, pursuing the case, must consider if it’s worth continuing in light of the multinational group’s collapse, even though it concerns the death of a child.
More than three years on, Arcadia Group, the manufacturer, Realm Projects, Stoneforce, who fitted the barrier, and Topshop/Topman were all charged with health and safety offences relating to Kaden’s death.
Stoneforce Ltd has gone into liquidation, so the prosecution would not need consent to proceed with charges against them.
The defendants appeared before magistrates on November 19, facing charges of an employer/self-employed person breaching a general duty to person(s) other than an employee between May 1, 2012, and February 14, 2017.
They also faced charges of erecting or installing unsafe work equipment during the same dates and contravening health and safety regulations.
The defendants were committed to Crown Court, and the charges, which had not yet been formally put, were subject to change.
At that hearing, Realm Projects indicated a ‘not guilty’ plea so a trial would go ahead against the company.
A Reading Crown Court judge heard the trial was estimated to last three months, to which Judge Heather Norton commented “gosh”.
“It is something of a gosh situation”, prosecutor Mr Ageros agreed.
“It is something of a long estimate but this is a complicated trial containing evidence which is not confined to just the circumstances of the Reading store.
“It is a complicated case and the likelihood is that if the trial is fully contested there will likely be expert evidence called by all of the defendants.
“Given the age of this case and given the understandable anxiety of the family of Kaden Reddick, who was 10 years old at the time of his death, there is an understandable anxiety for the trial to be continued at the earliest possible time.”
As Arcadia and Topshop were in administration, it could be taken that they denied the offences but a trial would go ahead that they did not contest, so they would be unrepresented.
Judge Norton said the Reading court could accommodate the trial from November next year but lawyers for the defendant companies said they had professional commitments and asked for a date in early 2022.
Judge Norton scheduled a provisional trial date of January 10, 2022, listed to last for ten weeks.