A MAINTENANCE worker who removed a panel from a fourth-floor balcony in Sheffield has been jailed for four years for a toddler’s manslaughter after she tragically plunged 60ft to her death through the gap left behind.
Robert Warner, 45, was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence of two year-old Ryaheen Banimuslem at Sheffield Crown Court today.
Ryaheen had been playing with family in the communal garden area of an apartment block on June 27, 2012, when she strayed onto the walkway where Warner had removed a glass panel.
The court heard Warner, who was contracted to carry out maintenance on Wicker Riverside apartments in Sheffield, was supposed to replace a panel in the garden area of the flats, which was regularly used by residents for recreational purposes.
But instead of purchasing a new glass panel for the job, he took one from the adjacent walkway – and then invoiced Allsopp Residential Investment Management (ARIM), who oversaw the flat’s maintenance, for the panel he never bought.
Sentencing him, Mr Justice Stephen Males said: “Your failure to board up the gap was a thoroughly irresponsible failure which has caused the tragic death of a little girl and brought grief to her family.”
Adding that the distress caused to Ryaheen’s parents, Ola Al Fatle and Hikmat Al Fatle, was “apparent and real,” he said: “They have borne their loss with quiet dignity.”
Prosecutor Bryan Cox QC told the jury during the trial: “Ryaheen was playing in the garden area in the company of her mother and others and by this time the barrier in the garden area was securely intact.
“Ryaheen strayed from the garden area onto the walkway, from which the defendant had removed the panel.
“There was nothing in place to stop her doing so. She made her way along the walkway to the point where the panel had been removed.
“She passed through the barrier and fell to her death. There was nothing to prevent her walking off the edge of the walkway.”
Mr Justice Males said: “You took no steps to board up the gap as you could have easily done, or even draw attention to its existence, and simply left the gap there for almost two weeks.”
He added: “To board it up would have been an easy job and you had the tools with which to do so.
“I do not believe that you left the gap deliberately, intending to do nothing about it. As yourself said, and as was obvious, that would have been extremely dangerous.
“Why you did not board the gap up we will never know.
“For whatever reason, you created an obvious danger for any little child using the garden, and even if it slipped your mind under the pressure of other work, you did nothing to remove the danger for an extended period.
“The families who used the garden relied on you to keep it safe for them to do so.”
The court heard that the walkway was very narrow and had a barrier – which consisted of reinforced glass and metal girders and rods – similar to the one in the garden area.
The court heard that Warner had over 20 years experience working as a builder and maintenance man.
He had undertaken courses in health and safety and his general tasks included maintaining the flats and grounds of the tower block, as well as menial tasks like clearing up rubbish.
Ryaheen moved to England from Iraq with her parents in March 2011 after her father was sponsored by the Iraqi government to sit a degree in Material Physics at the University of Sheffield.