A Burnley furniture boss has escaped jail after his company supplied a dangerous cot that left a child hanging by the neck.
Phillip Dickens (38), of Underley Street, Burnley, was given a three-month suspended sentence after admitting two counts of placing an unsafe product on the market, between January 2010 and July 2013, on behalf of his company Oxfordshire-based Baumhaus.
In mitigation, it was confirmed that neither Mr Dickens nor Baumhaus set out to harm children with their cotbed, and that the company accepted failure in not having proper quality control. They had acted quickly to remove the product from distribution.
Aylesbury Crown Court heard how Buckinghamshire resident Louise Conant bought one of Baumhaus’s Nutkin three-drawer cotbeds for her 19-month-old daughter Ophelia. At lunchtime on April 16, 2013, Mrs Conant rushed upstairs after noticing her daughter getting into difficulty via a video monitor system.
Her daughter’s neck had become lodged in a gap between the end of the bed and a horizontal handrail.
Nine days later, Northamptonshire mother Deborah Turner, who had also bought a Nutkin cotbed, found her son dangling on the outside of the cot with his forehead jammed against the horizontal handrail.
I bought what I thought was the best for Ophelia. But it turned out to be a living hellMum Louise Conant
The prosecution was brought by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards.
Judge Karen Holt fined Dickens’ company £12,000 and suspended his prison sentence for a year. She also awarded costs of £35,653.94.
Following Mrs Conant’s complaint, officers took away the cotbed, found the supplier Baumhaus, and confronted them with the problem and a video of Ophelia in distress.
Baumhaus was served a product recall notice in July 2013, which recovered 93% of the 212 cotbeds sold.
The following month Trading Standards received three lab test reports which identified failures.
Thames Valley Police visited Baumhaus in October and seized computer equipment.
A month later Mr Dickens, a director, was interviewed under caution during which he confirmed the company had designed the Nutkin cotbed, which was produced in China and imported back into Britain for distribution.
Alex Greenwood (prosecuting) told the court the prototype had been tested and passed in 2010 but the product placed on the market in 2013 had different dimensions.
Judge Holt said: “One can only imagine the horror that mother must have felt.”
But she added the court acknowledged naivety and negligence on the part of the defendant, who at the time had no manufacturing experience, kept no technical product notes, and relied on an external company for testing to assess compliance with relevant British Standards.
She awarded both mothers £1,000 each in compensation.
Following the case, Mrs Conant has urged all parents to invest in a video monitor - since one saved her daughter’s life. She said: “I bought what I thought was the best for Ophelia. But it turned out to be a living hell.”
And Trading Standards Officer Rebecca Kaya, who led the investigation, added: “We believe there are still 12 examples of this model of cotbed out there. Our message is clear to anyone who has one, to check the name and product code, and contact their local Trading Standards department.”