THE death of a man who fell down a lift shaft was ‘avoidable’, a judge said as he fined the company responsible £120,000.

Craig Jones, aged 27, died on August 30, 2014, after trying to free himself from the broken-down lift in Marsden House, where he lived. 

Warwick Estates, which was responsible for the maintenance of the lift, admitted breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, following prosecution by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive).

Mr Jones, who worked as plasterer, fell to his death after attempting to rescue himself from the lift after he and his friend became trapped.

The pair sounded the alarm but got no response.  Bolton Crown Court heard that the lift in question had an “intermittent fault” that meant on occasions the GSM auto dialler, which passengers in the lift would use in case of emergency, did not always function correctly and the lift would also break down. 

However, Warwick Estates failed to request reports from Arc Elevators, who were contracted by Warwick Estates to carry out repair and maintenance work and provide up to date training for the caretaker of Marsden House, who was responsible for reporting incidents to Warwick Estates.

Defending, Lisa Judge said that Warwick Estates “could have done no more” to prevent or foresee the decision Mr Jones took. 

She added: “The lift was compliant with British Standards. Warwick Estates did all that was reasonably practicable to prevent someone self-rescuing.”

Judge Timothy Clayson said the defence’s argument was “wholly unsustainable”. 

He added: “If Warwick Estates had performed its duties fully and properly it would have known of the problems with the lift. Then it would have been obvious that steps needed to be taken.

“Warwick Estates say that no steps could have been taken to stop self-rescue.

“There were many steps that could and should have been taken.

“Mr Jones had become less concerned of self-rescuing from the lift, because he had had so many experiences of being trapped in it.”

He added: “I find that the problems with the lift breaking down and people becoming trapped happened quite often prior to Mr Jones’ death.

“This was a serious accident waiting to happen.”

Following Mr Jones’ death, the British Standards in regards to lifts, were amended in 2015, to change the mechanics of lifts to ensure the doors cannot be prised open. 

Speaking after the sentence, in which Warwick Estates were also ordered to pay £45,000 in costs, Mr Jones’ mum Samantha said she hoped “lessons would be learnt” by her son’s death and that no other mother would have to suffer the “pain and anguish” she had.

She added: “It is not the amount of the fine that mattered to me, it was the judges’ comments.  “Craig’s death could have been avoided if they had done their job properly. 

“The judge made it clear that it was not Craig’s fault.” 

Miss Jones’ solicitor Clare Campbell, of Leigh Days, said: “It is justice of a kind in that it serves to alert other companies that maintain buildings and their lifts, that incorrect or inadequate maintenance can and will be heavily punished by the HSE.

"We are pursuing a civil action against Warwick Estates Property on behalf of Samantha, but no amount will ever come close to compensating her for losing Craig.”