Robert Warner was a caretaker in Sheffield. In 14th June 2012 he was called to a block of flats to deal with a piece of glass that had been broken. He removed that but (seemingly because he was overworked) forgot to board up the panel until the glass had been replaced.
Tragically, a two year girl – Ryaheen Banimuslem, was playing with her brother on the fourth floor where the glass had smashed, and fell through the gap to the ground. She died in hospital on 27th June 2012.
Mr Warner was charged with gross negligence manslaughter. After a three week trial, he was convicted by a jury on a majority (10-2).
Mr Warner was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment. We have the sentencing remarks that set out why. The Judge acknowledged that this was not a deliberate act by Mr Warner, and must be seen against a backdrop of Mr Warner being a “hard working, helpful and conscientious caretaker, who took pride in your work” of a very good character.
Notwithstanding that, the Judge held that the culpability was high and the danger that was created was obvious, with devastating consequences. The Judge said that there was little guidance in other cases, but a substantial prison sentence was inevitable.
These sorts of cases are extremely difficult to sentence. The consequences of the defendant’s act were horrendous – a child died. On the other hand, there was no intention to cause anyone any harm and one can imagine that Mr Warner was mortified by what had happened, and he will have to live forever with the knowledge that he had cause a young girls death.
We would expect an appeal because these cases are so fact specific. We would have thought a sentence more in the order of about 2 years would have been more likely, but the Judge heard all of the facts and it may be that the Court of Appeal would defer to that. Having said that, this is the sort of case where the Court of Appeal is more inclined to step in and lower a sentence.