Newport council fined over Michael Powell’s hoist death

A council has been ordered to pay more than £160,000 after a disabled man was killed by his bed hoist.

Michael Powell, 53, who was paralysed in a motorbike crash, choked to death after becoming tangled in the hoist at his home in Newport in June 2008.

Newport Crown Court heard that the risk was “foreseeable”.

Newport council pleaded guilty to breaching its duty of care and was fined £100,000. It will also have to pay £60,108 costs over the death.

The local authority’s social services department had provided Mr Powell with a mechanical hoist in his bedroom to lift him into bed from his wheelchair.

The court heard that the hoist’s remote control had fallen off and he died as he tried to reach for it.

Mr Powell’s body was found by his brother and father, who became concerned when he failed to answer his phone.

The remote control was lying on the floor and the emergency lowering system had failed, the court was told. He also had no way of calling for help.

The council admitted that its failure to anticipate these problems caused his death.

Anthony Vines, prosecuting, said: “Mr Powell had got in touch with social services to say the hoist was sticking and he was frightened of getting stuck in the air.

“The risk was foreseeable but systemic failures by the council increased his risk of death and injury.

“The council failed to conduct suitable assessments on the health and safety risk caused to Mr Powell by the hoist in his home.”

Mr Powell was said to be “fiercely independent” in his bungalow and refused additional care because he did not want to feel like he was more disabled than he was.

‘Unnecessary loss’

Nicholas David Jones, for the defence, said: “We accept there should have been an alarm system fitted and that if the hoist had been inspected properly the death would not have occurred.

“This is a matter of the utmost regret to the council and they want me to express their sincerest condolences to Mr Powell’s family.”

Judge Neil Bidder QC said he wanted the case to serve as an example to councils of the importance of looking after disabled people in their care.

He said: “This was a terrible accident and a completely unnecessary loss. Michael died alone and in the most distressing way.

“He was found by his brother and father and this must have been a very distressing experience for them.

“No sentence can assuage the loss caused to Michael’s family and his friends.”