A pub owner has been jailed for nine years for the manslaughter of a seven-year-old boy who was electrocuted while playing in a beer garden.
Harvey Tyrrell suffered a fatal shock at the King Harold in Romford, east London, when he touched poorly installed outdoor lights on the afternoon of September 11 2018.
The pub’s owner David Bearman, 73, was sentenced to nine years by Snaresbrook Crown Court on Thursday after previously pleading guilty to gross negligence manslaughter.
Judge Martyn Zeidman QC said: “This pub was a disgrace. And… in my view, a timebomb waiting to go off.”
The electrician said to have installed the lighting, Bearman’s 74-year-old brother-in-law Colin Naylor, was jailed for a year after he was found guilty of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act following a trial.
The judge said: “I have no doubt that both of you were aware of the danger and each of you, for your own slightly different reasons, chose to do nothing about it.
“And now of course, it all ends in tears. In a sentence, Harvey’s death is a tragedy, and it is one that must never be allowed to be forgotten.”
He told Bearman: “You gambled with the lives of your customers, putting money over safety,” adding: “I regard this as a bad case and one in which you put your love of money over the safety of your clientele.
“The evidence drives me to the conclusion that you adopted throughout a bombastic, arrogant and dangerous attitude.”
The judge told Naylor: “You were aware of the risk of death but chose to turn a blind eye to it.”
Ms Jones smiled, then sobbed and was embraced by Mr Tyrrell, as Bearman and Naylor were taken down to the cells.
She earlier wept in the witness box as she read two victim impact statements about losing her “perfect seven-year-old” who “would have been 10 in a few days’ time”.
“Words can’t describe how much we miss our larger-then-life, cheeky, happy, loving son. Our lives will never be the same,” she said.
“We have been cheated of so much. He should still be here. He should be growing into a spoilt, bratty teenager, giving us grief.”
Harvey had been taken to the pub by his mother to join his father and maternal grandfather and was playing in the garden with a friend when he was electrocuted.
Mr Tyrrell said in a statement he was “incredibly proud” to have been a father to Harvey, who he called “Harvey chops”.
“Losing a child is one of the hardest things in the world but because it was so sudden we didn’t get time to say final words, to say goodbye or say we loved him.
“I feel like a part of me died when Harvey died, and I have never really been able to be happy since.”
Naylor’s trial heard he had installed the lighting circuit around the garden’s perimeter in June 2018 – three months before Harvey’s death.
Bearman, a former electrician who suffered an electric shock in the pub’s basement in May 2018, leased the business from Punch Taverns from 2006 before buying the freehold for £900,000 in 2010.
The court heard environmental health inspectors had identified “numerous electrical defects” in 2009.
But the obligation to engage a “competent person” to fix the problems was “never fulfilled by Mr Bearman up and until the day of Harvey’s death”, said prosecutor Duncan Penny QC.
“He was electrocuted as a result of the unsafe installation of a lighting unit in that garden combined with a catalogue of electrical failures found in due course during the inspection of that public house by a series of experts who subsequently came to investigate,” he said.
The court heard the lights had significant defects, including a lack of appropriate insulation to prevent water getting in, and no earthing at the distribution board from which the circuit was powered.
An investigation into Harvey’s death found 12 defects which posed a risk of injury including electric shock, and 32 potentially dangerous defects, with one expert describing it as “the most dangerous thing he’s ever seen in 40 years”.
Naylor denied wrongdoing, telling police at interview that he was an electrician with 50 years’ experience and believed his work to be “first class”.
Bearman’s barrister, Neil Fitzgibbon, said his client’s guilty plea was an acceptance of “full responsibility” for Harvey’s death.
He said the father-of-three and grandfather was a “generous family man” behind the “veneer of a colourful character”, who was close friends with Harvey’s parents and considered the boy as a relative.
“He is a broken man, consumed with guilt about what happened and has, on a number of occasions since this tragedy, tried to take his own life,” he said.
“No sentence can undo the wrong he has caused or diminish the guilt he feels and, through me, he apologises from the bottom of his heart for the grief that he has caused all of Harvey’s family. He hopes one day the family can forgive him.”
Bearman, of Ardleigh Green Road, Hornchurch, Essex, also admitted a charge of abstracting electricity, after an unlawful unmetered supply was used to steal energy for the pub, but received no extra sentence.