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Monday, 25 February, 2002, 13:30 GMT
Death blamed on shoddy work
Fire engine holding ladder to third floor of building
Christine Foster was hit by fallen masonry
A sheriff has blamed poor workmanship on an Edinburgh building for the death of a waitress who was killed by fallen masonry.

Sheriff Charles Stoddart had carried out a fatal accident inquiry into the death of Christine Foster.

The 26-year-old was working at Ryan's Bar in the capital when the 2ft coping stones fell from a third-storey roof onto an outside cafe area.

Christine Foster
Christine Foster was working as a waitress
Following the inquiry's findings, Miss Foster's father, Mike Foster, said the family plans to launch a civil action against liquidated contractor McLaren Building Group, which carried out the faulty building work.

Speaking from his home in the Philippines, he welcomed Sheriff Stoddart's determination and said he "had done a good job" on the inquiry.

Mr Foster accepted that it was beyond the remit of the inquiry to apportion blame to any party but was critical of the council's "complete lack of due care".

He said: "Our legal representatives are going to let us know if a civil action is viable but we can't afford to pursue this matter on our own. Legal aid is one option we're looking at.

Conversion work

"It's obvious that there's been faulty work by the primary contractor during the renovation."

Sheriff Stoddart's report identified five separate examples of what he called "shoddy work" carried out during a two year conversion project which started in 1988.

Miss Foster's death in June 2000 might have been avoided if those renovating the top of a wall at Ryan's Bar had done a proper job, said the sheriff.

Sheriff Stoddart recommended that:

  • Edinburgh City Council should carry out an immediate audit of those buildings which might pose a risk to public safety;

  • the council should remind those responsible for the maintenance of older properties in Edinburgh of the risks to public safety if their properties fall into disrepair;

  • he recommended that a system should be introduced to make council inspections of such buildings mandatory, at present there are no legal requirements;

  • the sheriff noted that renovation works carried out between 1988 and 1990 on the Georgian building's south-east gable, which caused the accident, did not require a building warrant;

  • he said his views on council inspections were a "contribution to the debate" rather than formal recommendations for legislative change.

The circumstances of the woman's death were examined at a fatal accident inquiry at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last month.

Miss Foster, from Kalgoolie, Western Australia, had been on a working holiday in Scotland.

Stringent checks

The inquiry heard that she was serving at a table when the slabs dropped from the roof onto the pavement cafe.

In his report, Sheriff Stoddart said Miss Foster's death was a "tragic accident".


We'll look at the recommendations coming out of this inquiry and see if any changes need to be made to existing legislation

Scottish Executive spokesman
He said: "The evidence before the inquiry clearly disclosed that although a collapse of masonry is often unexpected and unpredictable, her death might have been avoided; the fact that it was not must be a matter of great public concern."

Edinburgh City Council said it had begun steps to carry out an audit of suspect structures, while considering the rest of the sheriff's recommendations and other findings.

The Scottish Executive said it would look at the sheriff's recommendations for building reform.

A spokesman said: "The current position is that in Scotland local authorities can look into any building where there's evidence of disrepair.

"They can carry out safety checks if they believe a building is in disrepair or if there's any immediate risk, the Buildings (Scotland) Act allows local authorities the powers to inspect and act almost immediately.

"But we'll look at the recommendations coming out of this inquiry and see if any changes need to be made to existing legislation."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Morag Kinniburgh reports
"The sheriff proposes regular inspections of all older properties"
See also:

01 Feb 02 | Scotland
Building safety checks call
31 Jan 02 | Scotland
Masonry death father's heartbreak
25 Jan 02 | Scotland
Building work was 'shoddy'
21 Jan 02 | Scotland
Inquiry told of 'crashing' stone
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