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Vue Entertainment fined £750,000 over death blamed on cinema seat

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Vue Entertainment has been fined £750,000 for safety breaches after a malfunctioning chair leg fatally trapped a film-goer in Birmingham.

Ateeq Rafiq, 24, suffered a cardiac arrest when the foot rest of his “gold class” chair closed on his neck at Birmingham’s Star City complex in March 2018.

Despite being revived at the scene with CPR, the father-of-one suffered catastrophic brain injuries and died at Heartlands Hospital a week later.

The incident involved a 'gold class' theatre at a Vue cinema in Birmingham. Pic: Google Street View
Image: Despite being revived at the scene, Ateeq Rafiq died a week later in hospital

He had knelt down to search for his phone and keys when he became trapped and his wife’s fingers became stuck when she tried to pull the footrest off his neck.

An inquest held two years ago heard that other luxury seats in the cinema had leg rests that could be lifted, due to being fitted with a different actuator.

Vue had earlier admitted failing to ensure the health and safety of persons not employed by the company in connection with the installation, maintenance and use of powered cinema seating.

The company also admitted failing to make a “suitable and sufficient” risk assessment of a number of faulty seats.

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On Tuesday, Judge Heidi Kubik QC fined Vue Entertainment £750,000 and also ordered it to pay £130,000 in costs.

She said Mr Rafiq had died in “an accident that never should have happened”.

“Nothing I say can ameliorate the loss suffered by his wife and family.

“It is conceded that clearly a number of members of the public were exposed to the same risk of harm.

“The complete lack of a risk assessment was a significant cause of the actual harm that resulted.”

Accepting various mitigating factors advanced on behalf of Vue, the judge added: “It is obviously positive mitigation on behalf of this company that they have no previous convictions or matters coming before the court.”

A statement from Vue said: “The death of Mr Rafiq saddened everybody at Vue and we remain deeply sorry for the loss suffered by his family and friends.

“We hope that the end of these proceedings brings some closure to them following this tragic accident.

“All recliners of the type involved in the incident have been removed from our cinemas and we have taken all possible steps to learn from this and ensure it could not happen again.”