Oxford

Hugo Boss fined £1.2m over Bicester Village mirror death

Austen Harrison Image copyright PA
Image caption Austen Harrison suffered "irreversible" brain damage after the large mirror fell on top of him

Designer clothing company Hugo Boss has been fined £1.2m over the death of a young boy crushed by a mirror at its Bicester Village store.

Austen Harrison, four, suffered fatal head injuries at the Oxfordshire outlet store in June 2013.

Oxford Crown Court heard the 19 stone mirror had "negligently been left free-standing without any fixings".

The company had previously admitted breaching health and safety at work regulations.

Austen, from Crawley, West Sussex, had been playing with the steel-framed fitting-room mirror, described as being balanced upright like a "domino piece", when it toppled on to him while his father tried on a suit.

The youngster had emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain but died four days later after his life-support was switched off.

Image caption Austen had been playing with the mirror at Hugo Boss in the Bicester Village shopping complex

In a statement, Hugo Boss UK said the accident had "shocked and saddened" the entire company and acknowledged "Austen's death was wholly avoidable".

It added: "There are no words the company can use to alleviate in any way the enormous suffering caused to Austen's parents in particular.

"We offer our most sincere regret and apology."

Judge Peter Ross said "it would have been obvious to the untrained eye" that the mirror posed a risk, adding it was "nothing short of a miracle" it had not fallen before.

He added he was sure the health and safety breach went "to the very top of the company".

He said the haste in revamping the Bicester Village pop-up store to replace a Burberry shop led to a "lack of planning, a lack of proper specification", while instructions for the mirror which arrived there in September 2012, were "ill-defined and not followed through".

"Was there a systematic failure? In my view there was," he added.

A statement released by Austen's mother, now Irina Glaser after she and Austen's father Simon Harrison divorced, said her son's "greatest pleasure in life was to help others".

She added: "In his memory I invite you to help someone, no matter how small or large the deed, to assist Austen in creating a friendlier world.

"My love extends to each one of you for doing this."

Hugo Boss is one of more than 130 stores at the Bicester Village designer shopping outlet.

A spokeswoman for Bicester Village declined to comment.

Councillor Tony Ilott of Cherwell District Council, which mounted the prosecution, described the death as "an incredibly tragic situation".

He said: "All companies have a legal responsibility to staff and customers to ensure every relevant health and safety requirement is met to the necessary standards. It is not optional, nor is it negotiable.

"Hugo Boss UK Limited failed in that responsibility and that has been recognised in today's sentencing. However, no price can ever be put on a life and our thoughts remain wholly with Austen's family."

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