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Family’s anger over ‘low’ £40,000 fine after gran’s death

Nazareth Care Charitable Trust didn't do enough to stop Sheila Whitehead falling down stairs.

Grandmother: Sheila Whitehead fell to her death. Handout

The family of a grandmother who fell to her death have spoken of their “disappointment” over the punishment imposed on a care home charity which was looking after her.

Nazareth Care Charitable Trust was fined £40,000 over the death of 87-year-old Sheila Whitehead, who fell down stairs at a care home in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian.

But her family said the penalty was not harsh enough.

Their lawyer, Natalie Donald from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “I have been in touch with family members and they want to make it clear how upset and disappointed they are at the level of fine imposed.

“They cannot understand why such a low value has been put on the life of their very much-loved mother and grandmother.

“They are also at a loss as to why a lower fine was imposed due to Nazareth Care Home being a charity.

“Why should a charity should be held to a different standard from anyone else operating a care home?

“The view of both myself and the family is that too many elderly people suffer serious injury in care home accidents.

“This low-level fine sends completely the wrong message to those responsible for the care of Scotland’s elderly population.”

Mrs Whitehead died after falling down stairs on May 16, 2017. She had poor eyesight and managed to stumble past a rope which was supposed to hold residents back.

Mrs Whitehead, who had stayed at the home for four years, later died in hospital.

Health and Safety Executive investigators found that the charity should have had physical barriers at the top of the staircase, as the rope wasn’t strong enough to bear any great weight.

Although Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC said the law entitled him to impose a maximum fine of £2.5m, he fined them £40,000 following the charity’s decision to plead guilty to breaching sections three and 33 of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act at the earliest opportunity.

Sheriff Welsh also said he had decided to impose the sum because the charity had also carried out extensive health and safety training for its staff.

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