Craig Williams, 37, wiped away a tear at Leeds Crown Court after hearing how the parents of Oscar Abbey found his lifeless body hanging out of the cot he had sold them around two months earlier.How Williams was jailed
The court heard how he had sold the cot through his PlaytimeBeds Ltd company to the Abbey family for £655, including delivery, and had reassured the boy's mother that it was safe for children of all ages.
A judge said that the defendant, of Park View Road, Kimberworth, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, had shown a "flagrant disregard" for the public by continuing to sell beds made with the same design even after the boy's death.
Prosecutor John Elvidge QC said that Williams, who has three children of his own, had demonstrated "an utterly indifferent attitude towards the safety of small children, even after he had been visited by police in relation to Oscar's death".
The court heard how Williams and co-defendant Joseph Bruce, 31, who also admitted a count of fraud, had continued to sell the same cots after Oscar's death under a new company, Magical Dream Beds.
Williams had been on trial for manslaughter by gross negligence, but a jury was directed to return a not guilty verdict after he admitted failing to discharge an employer's general duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act and a count of fraud.
Selfish and callous, motivated by money
Speaking about the investigation and the custodial sentence handed to Williams and Bruce, North Yorkshire Police's senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Nigel Costello said the case had been 'difficult' to investigate and attacked Williams' actions as 'motivated by money' and 'selfish and callous'.
Det Supt Costello also blasted 'unjust' comments on social media directed at Oscar's family.
He said: "This has been a very difficult case to investigate, but I am pleased that justice has been delivered to Oscar’s parents and wider family today.
"They have been through a harrowing experience – the initial shock and devastation of the loss of their baby in 2016, a detailed police investigation and nearly two years on, having to relive each minute again during a court case.
"Our hearts go out to them and while we realise that this result can never take away the pain of losing Oscar, we hope that in some small way the sentences given today allows them to move on into happier times.
“As the court heard over the past two weeks, the actions of Williams and Bruce were deplorable.
“The death of Oscar was preventable. As the investigation developed and unfolded, we found that Williams and Bruce were solely motivated by money and were willing to sacrifice children’s safety in the pursuit of it.
“Having been made aware of Oscar’s death and despite being directed by Trading Standards to stop trading, it is completely unbelievable that Williams and Bruce continued to sell these dangerous beds to other families and their actions shows them to be the selfish and callous individuals they are.
"It is only by good fortune that no other children have suffered serious injury. How they slept in their own beds at night, knowing they were risking the lives of those most vulnerable to line their own pockets, is beyond comprehension.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the investigating team at North Yorkshire Police and our partner agencies at Trading Standards and the Crown Prosecution Service, who worked tirelessly to bring about this result for Oscar and his family today.
'Unfounded, unjust comments on social media'
"But most of all I wanted to pay tribute to the family of baby Oscar who have acted with the upmost dignity.
"They have shown a great deal of patience, resilience and pragmatism, not just during the trial but over the last two years.
“The family received some unfounded, unwarranted and unjust comments on social media following the death of their son. All they have wanted from the outset was for Williams to take responsibility for his actions and this week, when he entered into his guilty plea, shows that he now accepts he was responsible for supplying a dangerous bed that unfortunately had catastrophic consequences.
"The family then needed to see that through the justice system a penalty would reflect both Williams and Bruce criminal behaviour.
“I hope that the sentence passed today sends a warning to manufacturers, regardless of whether they conduct their business from a shop premises, via the internet or via social media - you are responsible for ensuring that your products are safe and that they conform to any relevant safety standards and guidelines. The safety of your goods is paramount and safety standards are there to be adhered to for a very good reason; to prevent this kind of tragedy happening to other families. You ignore them at your peril.”
John Maher, principal trading standards officer at Sheffield City Council, said: “This case presents a clear warning to those whose hobby becomes a business for manufacturing products, that there can be catastrophic consequences of deliberately ignoring product safety requirements. There is always a need to ensure products are safe for consumers to use but particularly for babies and children.
“In this case, even after consumer complaints to the businesses about the safety of their cots and bunkbeds and a formal ‘Withdrawal Notice’ issued by Trading Standards to stop selling them after Oscar’s tragic death, both Bruce and Williams continued to fraudulently supply unsafe products to the public.
“As the court has heard, both Williams and Bruce showed a callous disregard for children’s safety by not seeking advice and ignoring our statutory notices to stop selling their product. Their actions were more concerned with profits and avoiding any liability for £1000s in refunds. They have left parents across the UK with an unsafe cot/bunk bed they cannot use.
“Furthermore, neither business was prepared to take any action to prevent even more children from being at harmed after Oscar’s death by taking product recall actions regarding the unsafe products they had sold, claiming that they had no money. After Sheffield Trading Standards forced Mr Williams to publish a product safety warning notice, some consumers who contacted him advised us they were being told by the business that their cot/bunk bed was ‘not that bad’.
“As a consequence of Mr Williams’ approach, Sheffield Trading Standards made a decision to take over what should have been his responsibility for dealing with unsafe product he had sold. This was a particularly difficult task for Officers due to the lack of any paperwork kept by the business to identify what they sold and to whom. Over 100 consumers required a specific assessment and decision as to whether or not their particular bespoke cot/bunk bed was safe.
“This tragic disregard for the law has had appalling consequences.”