Fire service managers face manslaughter charges

Three fire service managers are to be charged with manslaughter over the deaths of four firefighters in a warehouse blaze.

Paul Simmons, Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward will face charges of manslaughter by gross negligence over the deaths of Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Bradley in the blaze in a warehouse in Atherstone-on-Stour in 2007, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

All three are managers for Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Warwickshire County Council faces a charge of failing to ensure the health and safety at work of its employees, under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The defendants will appear at Leamington Spa Magistrates' Court on April 1.

Michael Gregory, reviewing lawyer in the CPS Special Crime Division, said: "Following a thorough investigation by Warwickshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive, I have reviewed the evidence in this case very carefully and I have decided that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to charge Paul Simmons, Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward with gross negligence manslaughter.

"Mr Simmons and Mr Ashley were Watch Managers and Mr Woodward was a Station Manager at the time of the fire, but they all acted as incident commanders before, during and after their colleagues were sent into the burning building.

"In that role, they were responsible for making the operational decisions while their colleagues tried to put out the fire.

"I have also decided that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against Warwickshire County Council for failing to protect the health and safety of its employees and that it is in the public interest to prosecute.

"I send my sincere condolences to the families of these four men who died in such terrible circumstances."

Nine other individuals, who were investigated by Warwickshire Police, have been told that there was insufficient evidence to take any action against them, the CPS said.