Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED February 11, 2003

In the absence of any other evidence, the court could infer that the only possible cause of an injury to the claimant's finger was a faulty magnetic catch and a protruding screw.Appeal by way of case stated from a decision of Brighton Magistrates Court on 18 June 2002, that there was no case for the defendant ('Gatwick') to answer in respect of an alleged failure of its duty under s.3(1) Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. On 9 May 2000 a Mrs Patel ('P') suffered a serious degloving injury to a finger whilst riding on a buggy at Gatwick Airport. The evidence indicated that P had put her hand out whilst passing through a set of sliding doors to stop a fire door from closing on the buggy. Further, inspections revealed that the magnetic catch holding the fire door was faulty and a screw was protruding by 3mm. Before the magistrates the prosecuting health and safety inspector ('S') contended that the only possible explanation for P's injury was that P had caught her finger on the protruding screw whilst trying to hold back the fire door which had been released by the faulty catch. Gatwick made a successful submission of no case to answer on the basis that the cause of the injury could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt on the basis of that evidence alone. On the present appeal S argued that it was not a case where "the facts spoke for themselves" but rather that the only inference that could be drawn from the evidence was that the injury had been caused in the manner contended for by S.HELD: (1) The doctrine that "the facts speak for themselves" had no application in a criminal case but it was a classic case where the justices should have drawn an inference from the primary facts. (2) There was no evidence relating to the injury other than that put forward by S and a clear inference should have been drawn from that evidence. (3) Common sense dictated that the only possible reason for the door closing was the failure of the magnetic catch, P had put out her hand to stop the door closing on the buggy and the only possible cause of injury to P was the protruding screw. (4) The case would be remitted to the magistrates court for reconsideration.Appeal allowed.