The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is advising organisers of youth activities and swimming pool operators to review their procedures to ensure the safety of participants at swimming events during the forthcoming school holidays. The advice comes after a prosecution of the London Borough of Barnet and the Office of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis for breaches of health and safety law.

The case followed HSE's investigation into the deaths of 15-year-old William Kadama and 14-year-old Gameli Akuklu, who drowned in the swimming pool at the Metropolitan Police Training College, Hendon, North London, in July 2002. The boys were participating in a summer play scheme that involved a swimming activity at the Police College. HSE's investigation into their deaths uncovered serious deficiencies in the operation of the swimming pool by the Metropolitan Police Service, and poor control of the summer play scheme by the London Borough of Barnet.

At a hearing today before the Central Criminal Court, the Office of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis was fined £75,000 plus £50,000 prosecution costs and the London Borough of Barnet was fined £16,500 plus £10,000 costs.

Speaking after the hearing, Ron Wright, HSE Principal Inspector, said: "Health and safety isn't about stopping fun activities, such as those organised for young people. However this case illustrates the tragic results when the safety of swimmers is not properly considered.

"Pool operators need to make sure that there are enough lifeguards for the size of the pool and the activities taking place. Play scheme organisers need to establish the swimming ability of the children involved and the suitability of the activity and pool."

Ron Wright continued: "As this case concerned a summer holiday play scheme we hope that, as the school holidays are about to start, it will send a clear message to all organisers of youth activities and swimming pool operators to review their procedures, so that tragedies such as this can be avoided in the future."

Both defendants had pleaded guilty to a charge of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974 (the HSW Act). Both acknowledged that their procedures were deficient and that their failures led to the two boys, and other children involved, being put at risk. A similar charge against the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) was not pursued.

1. Section 3 of the HSW Act states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

2. The decision to offer no evidence against the MPA was taken on the basis of the public interest. The Office of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis accepted responsibility for the serious failings identified in HSE's investigation. The MPA is an administrative body, which oversees the provision of policing in London, and it does not have day to day control of the running of the pool. HSE decided that, in light of the admissions made, it was not in the public interest to put the witnesses and those affected by the incident through a full trial, and decided to offer no evidence against the MPA.

3. HSE publishes comprehensive guidance on managing health and safety in swimming pools to assist pool operators and pool hirers put in place appropriate safety precautions. Managing health and safety in swimming pools (HSG179) is available from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury CO10 2WA or from good booksellers. ISBN 0 7176 2686 5, price £10.95.

Health and Safety Executive

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