A health and safety prosecution against a hospitality company after two people drowned in the swimming pool at the luxury Down Hall Country House at Hatfield Heath in Essex has been dropped at the 11th hour.
The trial of ThenHotels LLP was scheduled to begin later this month at Chelmsford Crown Court. But the judge who was to hear the case was told today that the Crown has withdrawn the allegations against the company which had already pleaded not guilty to two offences.
The prosecution was launched following the deaths of Josephine Foday, 22, and her married lover, Komba Kpakiwa, 31, in April 2013.
Barrister James Maxwell-Scott told Judge Christopher Ball QC that the prosecution had indicated a week ago that it would not now be offering any evidence against ThenHotels.
As formally cleared the company Judge Ball said that the Crown's letter to the court "indicates the unequivocal intention of the Crown to offer no evidence." He said that in the circumstances he would "formally enter not guilty verdicts".
Co-defendant, the hotel owner Veladail Hotels Ltd, of Mayfair, London, had earlier pleaded guilty to the same two offences and it will be sentenced shortly though no date has yet been set.
Both companies were accused of failing in their duty not to expose guests to risk in that they permitted them to use a swimming pool without having sufficient regard to risk assessments carried out by Hygcam Ltd and 4SIGHT Risk Management Ltd.
The second offence was contravening a health and safety regulation in that they failed to make a sufficient and suitable assessment of the health and safety risks.
After today's brief hearing, a legal spokesman for ThenHotels said the prosecution had reviewed the case in the light of the company's defence statement that ThenHotels was not involved in health and safety at the hotel.
"My client was the consultant, advising Veladail about the hotel and the prosecution thought we had a duty in respect of health and safety and we said that was not correct.
"They were contracted in to provide limited services which didn't extend to health and safety."
On 27 April 2013 nursing student Josephine Foday, of Barth Road, Plumstead, London, was spending her birthday weekend with married father of two Komba Kpakiwa, of Arthur Street, Erith, Kent, at the wedding venue and 99-room hotel near Bishop's Stortford.
The bodies of the couple were found floating in the unusually shaped pool at about 7pm.
An inquest in May last year recorded that they both died accidentally.
Miss Foday was studying at Canterbury University and Mr Kpakiwa, who worked in a Co-op, was studying law at North London University.
Down Hall Hotel no longer has a swimming pool. It has been converted into a spa.
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