A child was injured by a falling display at a Topshop store in Glasgow, just six days before a 10-year-old was killed by the same type of barrier at a branch in Reading, a jury heard today.
Sir Philip Green’s now-disbanded Arcadia Group, who owned Topshop when Kaden Reddick was murdered, is on trial for health and safety issues, as are the suppliers of the barrier and the shop fitters who installed it.
Prosecutor James Ageros QC told the jury that the schoolgirl’s skull fracture in Glasgow should have served as a warning to the companies involved, but there was no urgency for the investigation.
Kaden was killed after the 17-stone queue barrier at a Topshop store in Oracle, Reading, landed on his head on February 13, 2017. The boy had just finished watching a movie at a nearby cinema on a family outing at the time of the tragedy.
In another incident, 18 months before the tragedy, another customer’s foot was crushed in a Manchester store.
The jury was shown emails between designers and engineers expressing concerns about the safety of the barrier’s design, but no prototypes were ever made.
Sir Philip Green’s now disbanded Arcadia Group, which owned the Topshop chain when Kaden Reddick (pictured) was murdered
Mr Ageros said Topshop, which at the time had approximately 2,150 stores worldwide, parent company Arcadia Group, and barrier manufacturers Realm Projects Ltd were responsible for the 3ft high and 6ft wide barrier that landed on Kaden’s head.
The barrier’s mechanics, Stoneforce, have already admitted the health and safety charges, but Topshop, Arcadia and Realm Projects Ltd have denied the charges against them.
The prosecutor said at the opening of the two-month trial: “Kaden Reddick was killed when a driving gate fell over and hit his forehead as he balanced on top of it.
‘At the top of the barrier were baskets that encouraged shoppers to make impulse purchases. These were items that were attractive to children. Kaden and his younger sister went close to the barriers and were interested in what was in the baskets.
He showed the jury photos and continued: ‘In the photos you can see the plinth where the outer barrier was attached with only two screws – more suitable for hanging pictures on a wall, not for holding up a heavy object. Only these two screws held the barrier to the floor.
“At no point in that process did anyone calculate what loads they would have to withstand in a busy retail environment and keep it safe on the floor.”
The lawyer said the health and safety issues were “not a one-off”.
He continued: “Other barriers in other Topman and Topshop stores were unstable and also carried the risk of collapse.
“Six days before Kaden’s death, a similar barrier, this time completely dislodged, toppled over in a Glasgow shop and suffered serious injuries, including a skull fracture.
“While Stoneforce (the mechanics) failed to properly resolve the barriers, the charge is that the failures in this case are not alone. Therefore, charges have been filed against these other three companies.
Kaden was killed after the 17-stone queue barrier at a Topshop store in the Oracle, Reading, landed on his head on February 13, 2017.
‘Arcadia simply didn’t have the right level in relation to contractors. It did not ensure that tests around the stability of the barrier were performed. It just wasn’t designed to the right standards.
“Realm (the manufacturers) should have considered what fixings were needed to keep the barrier safe in a busy shop. They have not provided any information at all to stabilize these barriers in the store,” the prosecutor added, arguing that this was a dereliction of duty.
The prosecutor elaborated on how a similar incident in which a customer’s foot was crushed had taken place in Manchester 18 months before Kaden’s death.
He added: ‘On 2 April 2015, a similar barrier stood in the Manchester Trafford Center Topshop. This one also fell over and was not fixed. It caused serious injury to a customer’s foot. What the prosecution says is clear that the consequences could have been much more serious.
‘There has been no investigation into safety in other stores. If that action (starting an investigation) was taken with the Glasgow incident, why not with Trafford in 2015? This should have informed Arcadia.
“After that point, they should have explored all the barriers. It was too little, too late.’
The jury was told that Wesley Cox, Arcadia’s health and safety manager, had traveled immediately to the store to investigate the collapse of the Glasgow barrier and it was decided that all Topshop stores would inquire about their barriers.
The prosecutor then showed the jury the designs of the barrier, which was installed during a store remodel in 2013-2014, and explained how the original design, which used metal pillar structures beneath the heavy Corian surface. , was replaced by wooden MDF structures.
The judges were shown emails between designers and engineers expressing concerns about the safety of the barrier’s design. Adjustments have been made, but prototypes have never been made.
CCTV footage from the moments before Kaden was killed by the barrier, showing him wobbling with it before swinging under it and pulling the furniture on his head.
The Berkshire coroner previously confirmed that Kaden died as a result of a traumatic head injury. The music video was shot before his body made contact with the ground.
The boy had just finished watching a movie at a nearby cinema during a family outing at the time of the tragedy
Mr Ageros said: ‘The forces and constraints to which the barriers are subject in their day-to-day use have not been properly thought through. Arcadia never checked the state of the barriers except for their appearance. There have been no checks during this three-year period.’
The judges were also shown several CCTV clips of the Reading Topshop, where customers accidentally wobbled the barrier, as well as children swinging between the barriers. He claimed that Arcadia should have learned of these incidents in the days before the tragedy.
Topshop, Arcadia and Realm Projects Ltd have all been accused of failing to comply with health and safety obligations, failing to ensure that the design, manufacture and maintenance of the barrier did not pose a risk to the health and safety of anyone was not employed by them under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
All three companies deny the allegations. Stoneforce Ltd, the company that installed the barriers at the store, had previously admitted the health and safety charges against them, the jury heard today.
If convicted, Arcadia and Topshop, which went into administration in November 2020, could face huge fines after staff failed to test the barriers, despite the other barrier incident at the Glasgow store.
The trial, chaired by Judge Heather Norton, continues.