David Lloyd Leisure Club Limited has pleaded guilty to a health and safety offence after a three-year-old boy accidentally drowned in a pool at the company’s leisure club in Moortown, Leeds in April 2018. The company was fined £2.55m and ordered to pay £258,355 in costs at Leeds Crown Court.

The successful prosecution, taken by Leeds City Council, followed an investigation by the council’s environmental health team into the tragic death of a three-year-old boy as a result of drowning, at the David Lloyd Leisure Club, Moortown, Leeds.

During the investigation officers for the council identified inadequate lifeguarding arrangements at the club over a number of years leading up to the tragic event.

The investigation found that David Lloyds Leisure had been exposing club members to risks contrary to Section 33(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, between September 1, 2015, and April 22 2018 in the David Lloyd Leisure Club.

An inquest was held with a jury in 2020 and returned a verdict of accidental death. There was no CCTV footage or witnesses to establish how the child had ended up in the pool, but he was spotted by his father who sought to pull his son from the water after noticing he had left his side.  The jury found that the child had probably been under the 1.2m deep water for more than two minutes.  

The inquest heard that a single 17-year-old lifeguard was on duty and was expected to supervise up to 50 people.  The prosecution contended that there had been inadequate lifeguarding arrangements at the club over a number of years.  

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance Health and safety in swimming pools – HSG179  recommends that ‘constant poolside supervision by lifeguards provides the best assurance of pool user’s safety. Where the site specific risk assessment has shown that constant poolside supervision is not reasonably practicable, robust, alternative measures must be implemented to ensure the safety of pool users.’

In a pool measuring 25m x 12.5m, the HSE guidance provides for two lifeguards, which may be required following a Lifeguard Zone Visibility Test. 

On the 1st August 2023, David Lloyd Leisure Club Limited pleaded guilty to an offence under s3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 relating to the company exposing club members to risks between September 2015 and April 2022.  

In imposing the substantial fine, Judge Phillips remarked that it must reflect the seriousness of the offence which he categorised as falling within the high culpability category of the Sentencing Council guidelines.

Councillor Mohammed Rafique, Leeds City Council executive member for climate, energy, environment and green space, said “I would like to begin by offering the councils sincere condolences to the  the Wright family, this tragic story underlines the importance for employers and duty holders to ensure that the safety of their employees and customers is a priority.

“I would also like to thank the council’s environmental health and legal teams, and the Barristers from St Paul’s Chambers for their dedication and hard work to ensure David Lloyd Leisure Limited were held accountable for their failings.