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Catholic school fined £35,000 after 7 year old suffers burn during carol concert

by Marcus Jones
Our Lady of the Annunciation Church Croydon.jpg - Banner image

A school in London has been found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 after a boy suffered life-altering burns during a carol concert.

The incident occurred at St Thomas Becket Catholic Primary School in Croydon in December 2019 when the boy's homemade sheep costume caught fire from a lit candle he was holding at Our Lady of the Annunciation Church. The child was airlifted to hospital, where it was determined that he had sustained burns on 45% of his body.

Judge Philip Bartle ruled that the school failed to adequately assess and mitigate the risk involved. The state school was also ordered to pay £25,970 in prosecution costs, with victim compensation to be determined by civil courts.

The boy's parents shared emotional impact statements detailing their son's ongoing suffering and their struggle to cope with the aftermath. They described the terrifying moment they discovered their son on fire and their ongoing efforts to protect him from public scrutiny due to his injuries.

"I haven't stepped in a church since and I don't think I ever will," his mother said.

In response to the incident, London Fire Brigade advised against using candles in children’s school plays, recommending LED or electric alternatives instead.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Sarah Whittle said: "This was a shocking and scary incident that could have so easily been avoided.

"Common sense alone should have been enough to see the risk.

"Mitigation in this case would have been the substitution of wax candles for flameless ones, thereby reducing the risk to zero."

The school has since banned the use of candles and offered an apology to the family.

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