Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Statement on Marlie Farm High Court ruling

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service will carefully review today’s High Court ruling on compensation following the Marlie Farm fire and fatal explosion. 

Two long-serving members of ESFRS, Geoff Wicker and Brian Wembridge, lost their lives while attending the incident at Shortgate near Lewes, on December 3rd 2006

In December 2009, a father and son were convicted of their manslaughter. Martin Winter, owner of Festival Fireworks UK Ltd, was sentenced to seven years at Lewes Crown Court. His son Nathan was sentenced to five years (reduced to four years on appeal in 2010). No criminal charges were brought against any member of the ESFRS.

The court heard Martin Winter was "grossly negligent" as he knew an unlicensed metal container packed with fireworks could explode if a blaze broke out. As the Winters’ insurance was invalid because of the illegal storage of fireworks at Marlie Farm, victims of the tragedy were forced to seek compensation elsewhere.

A civil case, involving East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s insurers Zurich, began at the High Court in London in February 2013.

Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Des Prichard said:

“The judge listened carefully for two weeks to the evidence but did say that this was a very complex matter and he would take some considerable time to make his judgment.

It is only right that we give due consideration to the careful thoughts of the judge and now look at that document in detail before we make a further response.”

Significant Findings Report

ESFRS began a thorough and lengthy investigation immediately following the fire. It involved ESFRS personnel, the Fire Brigades Union and other representative bodies, with advice from the London Fire Brigade. As a result ESFRS and other services nationally and internationally have already implemented changes to the way they deal with such incidents to offer further protection for the public and firefighters. 

The Significant Findings Report, including its recommendations, can be found at:

(Editors notes: No further comment is being made at this stage. Any further updates will be posted on our website.)

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