Restaurant owner jailed for six years at North East court after customer's peanut allergy death
A "reckless" Indian restaurant owner has been jailed for six years after being convicted of the manslaughter of a customer with a nut allergy.
Mohammed Zaman supplied customer Paul Wilson with a curry containing peanuts - despite explicit instructions that his meal should contain "no nuts".
Mr Wilson suffered a fatal allergic reaction after eating a takeaway curry from one of Zaman's restaurants.
Today, at Teesside Crown Court, the 53-year-old was jailed.
Staff at the Indian Garden in Easingwold, North Yorkshire, cooked Mr Wilson's chicken tikka masala takeaway with groundnut mix containing peanuts, and the bar manager was found slumped in the toilet at his home in Helperby in January 2014.
The 38-year-old had died from a severe anaphylactic shock after only starting to eat his takeaway.
Zaman was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter following a trial at Teesside Crown Court at which the jury was told he swapped almond powder in recipes for the cheaper groundnut mix, despite warnings.
After the verdict, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it showed that food suppliers had a duty of care towards their customers.
Zaman, who owned six restaurants in York and North Yorkshire, was almost Â£300,000 in debt and cut costs by using the cheaper ingredient and by employing untrained, illegal workers.
Mr Wilson died three weeks after a teenage customer at another of Zaman's restaurants suffered an allergic reaction which required hospital treatment. She had been assured her meal would not contain nuts.
The prosecution said the owner had "put profit before safety" at the restaurants he owned.
Zaman, from Huntington, York, denied manslaughter by gross negligence, perverting the course of justice and six food safety offences. He was found guilty of all charges except perverting the course of justice.
He claimed he left managers to run his restaurants and that included ordering stock and hiring staff. He was not on the premises when the curry was sold.
Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, said: "Mohammed Zaman received numerous warnings that he was putting his customers' health, and potentially their lives, at risk.
"Tragically for Paul Wilson, Mohammed Zaman took none of those opportunities and ignored all of the warnings he was given.
"His was a reckless and cavalier attitude to risk and one that we, the prosecution, would describe as grossly negligent."
Mr Wilson's parents, Keith and Margaret, from Sheffield, said their son had carefully managed his condition since he was seven when he had a reaction to a Marathon chocolate bar. He loved curry but was always clear when ordering that his food must not contain nuts.
They said: "Justice has been served, Paul can rest in peace.
"We can't go back and change the past, all we can do is focus on the present and the future and making things right. Don't let this happen again."
Outside court, Detective Inspector Shaun Page said Mr Wilson's death was "totally avoidable".
He added: "We have shown Zaman had a duty of care to serve safe food.
"He has breached that duty to a criminal standard."
Martin Goldman, chief crown prosecutor with CPS Yorkshire and Humberside, said: "In this conviction, the CPS has sent a very clear message to the catering industry: there is a duty of care to your customers.
"If you ignore your responsibilities and regulations and put lives at real risk then we will not hesitate to prosecute."
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, said Zaman had made a success of himself since coming to this country more than 40 years ago, building up his businesses and gathering a property portfoilio worth more than Â£2 million.
"You threw all that away," the judge said. "You have done so in pursuit of profit.
"You have done so in such a manner as to bring about the death of another individual.
"Paul Wilson was in the prime of his life.
"He, like you, worked in the catering trade. He, unlike you, was a careful man."