Cinema chain fined £750,000 after father's death in footrest accident

A cinema chain has been fined three quarters of a million pounds after a young father died having become trapped under a chair at Birmingham's Star City complex.

The Vue Cinema at Star City in Birmingham. Photo: Google
The Vue Cinema at Star City in Birmingham. Photo: Google

Vue Entertainment Ltd has been fined £750,000 at Birmingham Crown Court for safety breaches connected to the death of film-goer Ateeq Rafiq, whose neck became trapped in an electronic footrest in the complex in 2018.

Mr Rafiq, aged 24, was with his wife when he became trapped by the “gold class” cinema seat at Star City’s Vue Cinema in March 2018.

An inquest into the Birmingham local's death heard that he had gone to look under his seat for his mobile phone and keys when the electronic footrest quickly began to come down on his neck.

Desperate attempts were made to release Mr Rafiq, but he suffered “catastrophic” brain injuries in the accident and died a week later.

The inquest jury eventually concluded that missed opportunities led to Mr Rafiq’s death. The jury of six men and five women also concluded there were missed opportunities to “undertake comprehensive safety checks of chairs”.

Vue Entertainment Ltd admitted two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act earlier this year, and this week the company was fined for the death.

Handing down the fine as well as £130,000 in costs, Judge Heidi Kubik QC said Ateeq Rafiq died in "an accident that never should have happened".

The judge said: "Nothing I can say can ameliorate the loss suffered by his wife and family.

"It is conceded that clearly a number of members of the public were exposed to the same risk of harm. The complete lack of a risk assessment was a significant cause of the actual harm that resulted."

Accepting various mitigating factors advanced on behalf of Vue, the judge added: "It is obviously positive mitigation on behalf of this company that they have no previous convictions or matters coming before the court. They have a very positive health and safety record."

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