Record fine for Alton Towers Crash Operator

30 Sep 2016

Merlin, who operate the “Smiler” ride at Alton Towers have been fined £5,000,0000 for their failings in respect of Health and Safety violations.


Judge Michael Chambers QC in passing sentence cited a “catastrophic failure” and that it was a “needless and avoidable” accident. Two teenagers lost legs in the incident. It looks as if the engineer “felt pressure” to re-initialise the ride notwithstanding that the computer safety system seems to have operated to shut the system down. The engineer operated the manual override. The company also encouraged “insufficient periods of downtime”, linking performance bonuses with lower levels of downtime in their rollercoasters.


Summing up, the judge said criticised the “obvious shambles of what occurred” and held that a written procedure for rides that developed a fault could have averted the situation. The judge also felt that the risk assessment was inadequate.


As an aggravating circumstance, the Court held that the injured “endured great pain and distress” and had waited for help for far too long. The first call to emergency services was made only after 17 minutes.

In a fairly damning summation, the judge held "The defendant now accepts the prosecution case that the underlying fault was an absence of a structured and considered system not that of individuals' efforts, doing their best within a flawed system”.

So in short, if you or your company are operating machinery of any type, you must have an audit trail of annual health and safety risk assessments, maintenance records for machinery and training records for staff. If you do not then your company is at risk of unlimited fines in the Crown Court. This was a record fine and the Courts are moving increasingly to adopt a “hawkish” approach to sentencing.

Finally the civil actions in this and other cases are yet to be decided so the story is not over yet.

For further information call Jonathan Compton on 0148346 7433 or email

Further reading

Protecting your brand in post-Brexit UK

Blog, News & PR
Now the UK has officially left the EU, it's more important than ever for UK businesses to look after their brands. Robert Ganpatsingh explains what to consider
Read more Read

Lockdown 3.0: no exception, no eviction

Blog, Legal Updates
Hannah Joad looks at new regulations extending residential tenants’ protection from eviction.
Read more Read

Supporting employees through the next lockdown

Managing your employees through uncertainty and equipping them to thrive, remain engaged and feel part of a team environment, must be a HR priority for 2021.
Read more Read

Remote working and home security

Blog, News & PR
With a large proportion of the workforce now working from home, security arrangements for home workers need to be addressed - Robert Ganpatsingh explains
Read more Read
  • Brighton Office

    1 Jubilee Street


    East Sussex

    BN1 1GE

  • Gatwick Office

    Griffin House

    135 High Street


    West Sussex

    RH10 1DQ

  • Guildford Office

    Wonersh House

    The Guildway

    Old Portsmouth Road



    GU3 1LR

  • Horsham Office

    Ridgeland House

    15 Carfax


    West Sussex

    RH12 1DY

  • London Office

    6 New Street Square

    New Fetter Lane


    EC4A 3BF

  • Get in touch