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Hugo Boss fined £1.2m over boy’s mirror death



Austen Harrison died four days after an 18-stone mirror fell on top of him. Photograph: Thames Valley police/PA

Hugo Boss, the luxury fashion giant, has been fined £1.2m for health and safety breaches following the death of a four-year-old boy who was crushed to death by a 114kg (18 stone) changing-room mirror.

Austen Harrison was at a Hugo Boss pop-up store in the Bicester Village outlet centre in Oxfordshire with his parents Simon and Irina Harrison when the 2.1-metre (7ft) high unsecured mirror fell on him.

Oxford crown court heard Austen, from Crawley, West Sussex, was left with irreversible brain damage and died four days later. Hugo Boss admitted offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Fining the company, the judge, Peter Ross, said “it would have been obvious to the untrained eye” that the mirror posed a risk, saying it was “nothing short of a miracle” that it had not fallen before.

There had been numerous near misses with mirrors at other stores across the country, the judge said, adding that Hugo Boss had a corporate responsibility, and that he was sure the health and safety breach went to the top of the company.

Earlier this year, coroner Darren Salter described the incident as “an accident waiting to happen” and an inquest jury concluded the mirror should have been fixed to a reinforced wall.

Barry Berlin, prosecuting, said the company had been responsible for systemic failures in its health and safety checks at the store. He said Simon Harrison and Austen had gone into the changing area – where the three-way mirror was positioned – to try on a suit in June 2013.

Instructions for the mirror state it should be properly fixed to a reinforced wall. However, it was standing against a stud wall.

Hugo Boss store at Bicester Village in Oxfordshire. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

“Unknown to the Harrison family at that time and, it seems, unrecognised by anyone at Huge Boss, that mirror had not been fixed to the wall but had negligently been left free-standing without any fixings,” Berlin said. “While Simon Harrison was trying on the suit, Austen was moving the wings of the mirror.”

Berlin said contractors had hurried to convert the pop-up shop from a Burberry store that had been there previously.

The court heard monthly health and safety checks were introduced in Hugo Boss stores by 2000, but these did not take place in the Bicester store. Steps have now been taken to enforce health and safety checks, with a specific review for mirrors in the company’s stores.

Representing Hugo Boss, Jonathan Laidlaw QC said the company had admitted a series of failings from the day of the incident.

“The consequence of this failing is as awful as one could reasonably imagine,” Laidlaw said. “Since the day of the accident, Hugo Boss has done all it can, first to acknowledge those failings, to express genuine, heartfelt remorse and also demonstrate a determination to put things right and ensure there cannot be a repeat of what went wrong.”

He said the company had met Austen’s family several times and settled a civil claim concerning the death.

At Austen’s inquest his father described hearing a bang. He said: “I heard someone gasp and saw a large mirror had fallen over. I instantly knew Austen was underneath it as it was not lying flat on the floor.”

Harrison added: “I can’t think of any reason why such a large mirror would not have been fixed to the wall. It would have been like trying to balance a domino piece.”

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