The owners of a luxury Essex hotel and a hospitality company face a Crown Court prosecution under health and safety laws over the death of two guests in the hotel's swimming pool in 2013.
The matter was transferred to Chelmsford Crown Court by Chelmsford Magistrates today after they were told by the prosecutor that the case was too serious for them to deal with as any fines imposed could potentially run into "hundreds of thousands of pounds."
Veladail Hotels Ltd, of Mayfair, London, which owns the luxury Down Hall Country House hotel at Hatfield Heath and hospitality company Thenhotels LLP, of Baker Street, London, have yet to enter pleas to the charges.
Each company is accused of the same two offences.
The first is that they failed in their duty not to expose guests to risks 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 is that they contravened a health and safety regulation in that they failed to make a sufficient and suitable assessment of the health and safety risks.
A preliminary hearing of the case has been scheduled for the Crown Court for 27 April.
Nursing student Josephine Foday, 22, of Barth Road, Plumstead, London, was spending her birthday weekend with married father of two Komba Kpakiwa, 31, of Arthur Street, Erith, Kent, at the 99-room hotel and wedding venue, which is between Harlow and Bishop's Stortford, when the double tragedy occurred.
The bodies of the couple, who were having an affair, were found floating in the unusually designed pool at about 7pm on 27 April 2013, the second evening of their stay. An inquest in May last year recorded that they both died accidentally.
The pool, in use since 1987, was of a ‘hopper' design - shaped like a grain hopper - with the deepest 2.1m section in the centre. It had four steeply sloped sides, with the edges not marked.
At the inquest Chelmsford Coroner's Court heard from a safety expert who said a swimmer would not be able to get any firm footing on the slopes. The expert said that gradients should not exceed 1:15 but the Down Hall pool had slopes of between 1:2 and 1:3.5.
The inquest also heard that the pool was not constantly supervised by a lifeguard and the CCTV system - which was not working at the time - was for reference only and not for live monitoring.
Miss Foday was studying at Canterbury University and Mr Kpakiwa was studying law at North London University.
The prosecution has been brought by Uttlesford District Council.