Hartlepool landlady cleared of blame for woman’s 6ft plunge down open cellar hatch

Licensee Allison Shirvani.
Licensee Allison Shirvani.

A HEALTH worker smashed her leg after plunging 6ft down an open pub cellar hatch as she walked home from work – but a jury has cleared the landlady of any wrongdoing.

Diane Allan needed stitches, spent two days in hospital and missed six months of work after plummeting down the 4ft 9ins by 1ft 8in shaft as she walked along the street.

Staff had opened the metal hatch outside The Royal, in Church Street, to move stock quickly against “pub” health and safety rules.

Council bosses prosecuted landlady Allison Shirvani for failing to provide adequate protection to the public, and she faced up to six months in prison or a £20,000 fine if she was found guilty.

But she was cleared of any wrongdoing by a jury after a two-day trial at Teesside Crown Court after she argued that she couldn’t be held responsible because the hatch was opened by staff unauthorised to do so while she was away from the pub at the time of the accident.

She also argued that staff were regularly made aware of the pub’s procedure that only she and another member of staff were to use it for taking deliveries.

The incident happened at around 5pm on August 15, 2011, when NHS worker Mrs Allan was making her way home.

Speaking after the hearing, a relieved Mrs Shirvani, 42, said: “I’m just so relieved it’s all over.

“I feel it should never have come about in the first place.

“It has just been months of worry. I was expecting to be found not guilty because I hadn’t done anything wrong.

“It was the first time I had been away from the pub in over a year. I’m pretty hands on, and I’m there all the time.”

Speaking about her ordeal, Mrs Allan said in court: “I was walking along the road and the next thing I knew I was down in the cellar.

“All of a sudden I felt a sharp pain. There was a lot of blood.”

She was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, by ambulance and had a fracture to her right tibia as well as a cut.

Miss Shirvani hit out Hartlepool Council for taking her to court, and said the case has also put a strain on her relationship with her son Daniel Thacker who opened the hatch to save time moving stock.

The trial heard how Mr Thacker opened one half of the hatch, which is on the pavement, and another member of staff put out three warning cones.

But Mrs Allen fell through the gap less just seconds later.

Miss Shirvani was found not guilty of failing to discharge a duty to members of the public and of contravening health and safety regulations relating to a sufficient risk assessment.

A spokesman for Hartlepool Council said: “We brought this case before the courts because we were strongly of the view that the The Royal public house had failed in its duty to provide adequate protection to the public.

“We are disappointed with the outcome, but will respect the decision of the court.”