No Decision On Whether Drayton Manor Should Be Prosecuted Over Schoolgirl Death
22 July 2019, 14:47
A decision has yet to be made over whether to prosecute a theme park in Staffordshire more than two years after a schoolgirl died following a water ride fall, a coroner has heard.
Evha Jannath, who was 11, died after falling from the Splash Canyon water ride at Drayton Manor theme park in Tamworth, Staffordshire, in May 2017.
She was one of a party of children on a school trip to the park from Jameah Girls Academy in Leicester.
An investigation into the death was handed over by Staffordshire Police to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in March.
In a statement at the time, detectives said "a decision has been made that the circumstances surrounding Evha's death do not meet the threshold for gross negligence or corporate manslaughter".
Passing the file to the HSE, it added the decision had followed a "thorough and lengthy" investigation and review by the Crown Prosecution Service.
A week-long jury inquest is now due to be held in Stafford on November 4.
At a pre-inquest review hearing on Monday, assistant coroner for South Staffordshire Margaret Jones said evidence of other pupils on Evha's boat is to be read at the inquest, while park staff would be giving accounts of the rescue attempts.
Jurors are also set to view park CCTV of the event unfolding, and hear from expert post-incident report authors on the ride's mechanics, signage and human behaviour, and the video footage.
The inquest is due to hear accounts from teachers who planned and supervised the trip, the ride's operators and senior park managers on what safety systems were in place.
Ms Jones, who said some of the witness evidence would be "distressing" to hear, was also told no decision had yet been made by the HSE on whether or not to bring criminal charges in connection with the incident.
Helen Wood, for the HSE, said: "That decision is yet to be made."
She added: "We will now seek to make a decision on prosecution in advance of inquest in November, but the inquest need not wait for that decision in any event."
Charles Curtis, barrister for Evha's family, said: "The family does not want this inquest postponed any further but it does seem the HSE have had a long time to investigate and it's of particular importance that decision they take is made as soon as possible."
Ms Wood told the court that any HSE decision to bring a prosecution would not impact the inquest process.
She added: "In case there is a suggestion otherwise, the HSE have not looked at any individual under suspicion of any offence on this investigation.
"I don't want anyone to think we're looking at any individual person for criminal offences."
The coroner replied: "That's helpful - we hope people will be able to speak freely (at the inquest).
"We don't want people to be fettered."
Ms Jones added: "As regarding the HSE, we hope to hear something from them prior to the date in November on the prosecution issue."