Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 14:09 UK

Artwork deaths fine cut to £2,500

Maurice Agis
The court was told that Maurice Agis had been in hospital since July

The creator of an inflatable artwork which blew away in a County Durham park killing two women has won a reduction in his £10,000 fine.

Maurice Agis, 77, of east London, was convicted at Newcastle Crown Court in March for safety law breaches relating to his Dreamspace installation in 2006.

He appealed against the size of the fine on the grounds it was beyond his capacity to pay.

The Court of Appeal in London reduced the amount he must pay to £2,500.

Judges were told that Agis was very ill and had been in hospital in Spain since the end of July.

Claire Furmedge, 38, from Chester-le-Street, and Elizabeth Collings, 68, from Seaham, died and 13 others were injured when the Dreamspace artwork broke free from its moorings at Riverside Park in Chester-le-Street in July 2006.

'Unusual circumstances'

Many of those hurt were inside the 2,500-sq-m artwork, which consisted of inflated rooms connected by tunnels.

Agis, of Bethnal Green, had been charged with manslaughter but the jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict.

Claire Furmedge and Elizabeth Collings
Claire Furmedge and Elizabeth Collings died at Riverside Park

He was convicted of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to ensure the safety of members of the public, and ordered to pay a £10,000 fine at £80 a month or face six months in prison.

On Wednesday, Lord Justice Goldring, sitting with Mr Justice Griffith Williams and Mr Justice King, said: "We, of course, are very conscious that it bears no reflection of what happened and cannot even begin to reflect the suffering to which the [trial] judge referred.

"However, these are very unusual circumstances and we are dealing with a very elderly appellant who is very ill."

Lord Justice Goldring ordered the new fine to be paid off in four months, with 45 days' imprisonment if Agis defaults.

He said: "This case raises, in acute form, the very difficult issue a judge faces when he or she has to impose a fine upon a defendant who has caused the death, in this case of two people, as the result of serious negligence.

"On the one hand, no fine can ever adequately reflect the loss of life caused by that negligence. On the other, the fine imposed must bear a relationship to the defendant's ability to pay."



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