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Pontins fined over woman's death

Bosses at a former holiday camp should have the death of a woman from Legionnaires' Disease "on their consciences", a judge has said.

Mother-of-two Karen Taylor, 53, from Birmingham, caught the bug while on holiday at the Pontins Holiday Centre in Blackpool, Lancashire, in July 2009. She developed pneumonia before she was diagnosed with the disease and died on August 29 that year.

She had stayed in Chalet 229 at the holiday park with her husband - the same room where another woman had become ill earlier.

Margaret Coote, 63, from Chesterfield, complained of feeling unwell two days after she used the shower in the chalet during a holiday with relatives that March. She later spent five weeks in hospital after suffering a heart attack and symptoms associated with the disease, but has since recovered.

Pontins Ltd, which is currently in administration, was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by putting holidaymakers and staff at risk of harm through the management of the water system at the camp.

Temperatures of water were such that it "promoted the proliferation of the bacteria", Preston Crown Court heard. The case was heard before a jury in the absence of the defendant who was not represented - a decision made by the administrators so as not to incur legal costs.

The Blackpool site closed in October 2009 but it is understood the holiday group has since been bought by an investment group linked to a hotel chain and continues to operate under the Pontins name.

The Recorder of Preston, Judge Anthony Russell QC Pontins Ltd was alerted to a potential problem of legionella bacteria as far back as 2006. The company had the benefit of a detailed risk assessment from a specialist water treatment firm and material readily available from the Health and Safety Executive but failed to take any adequate measures to address the problems.

Warnings were ignored which "must have been considered at the highest level of management", he continued. "There were serious management failings here and those who are responsible should have the death of Mrs Taylor and the ill health of Mrs Coote on their consciences."

He said the company was in administration and he was satisfied there were no assets from which any appropriate penalty could be met, although the company was insured and claims had been met or were being processed. The judge said if it had been a company making "reasonable profits" he would have imposed a fine of £500,000 with costs but instead he had decided to impose a nominal fine of £1,000.

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