Liverpool City Council bore no responsibility for the death of a 14 year-old boy when a derelict building into which he and friends had strayed collapsed on top of him, London's appeal court ruled today.
Appeal judge, Lord Justice Kennedy, said the city council had done everything in its power to keep trespassers away from the tottering building at (2) Newlands Close, Anfield. One council officer had described it as 'like a fortress.'
The judge added: 'At the time when the boys entered this dangerous property it was surrounded by an eight-foot fence which could only be over come by climbing over it or wriggling under it through an eight-inch gap.
'To say that by building such a fence the city council did not take such care as was reasonable in all the circumstances to see that these boys did not suffer injury on the premises by reason of the weakness of the building would, in my judgement, be absurd.'
The court heard David Platt, 14, suffered fatal injuries when the building collapsed without warning on August 22 1995. David had got into the building with three friends, James Marsden, 14, Lee Clarke, 14, and Dean Kenton, 11, who was also injured.
David's father, George Platt, of Dyke Street, Liverpool 6, and Dean's mother, Phyllis Kenton, had sued the city council for compensation, alleging a breach of the 1984 Occupiers' Liability Act duty to secure the property against trespassers.
Lord Justice Kennedy said the building was one of many vacant properties owned by the city council. 'There were regular problems with vandals, scavengers, drug addicts and children simply looking for somewhere to play.'
He said the city council had adopted a wide range of measures to try to bar trespassers from its empty buildings, including regular checks and fencing, but it was 'an uphill task'.
The property in Newlands Close had been vacated in May 1995 and was earmarked for demolition.
On August 21 1995 the city council had erected a corrugated metal eight-foot fence around the building but the judge said the boys had probably wriggled through an eight-inch gap 'just big enough for a child to go into'.
In December last year at Liverpool county court judge Bernstein dismissed the parents' damages claims, finding the city council blameless.
In the appeal court, the families' counsel, John Griffydd, claimed the city council could have done more to keep trespassers away from the building. The derelict building was clearly attractive to young children.
But Lord Justice Kennedy, sitting with Mr Justice McCullough, said the city council had done all that was required to 'discharge its duty under the Act' and dismissed the parents' appeal.