Trampoline park bosses fined after 270 injuries in just two months including 11 broken backs

27 February 2024, 16:48

David Shuttleworth and Matthew Melling escaped jail despite accidents at their trampoline park
David Shuttleworth and Matthew Melling escaped jail despite accidents at their trampoline park. Picture: Alamy

By Chris Chambers

The owners of a trampoline park where 11 people broke their backs in the opening seven weeks have escaped with just a fine and community service.

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David Elliot Shuttleworth, 34, and Matthew Melling, 34, were the directors of Flip Out Chester which opened on 10 December 2016. 

By February 3 there had been 270 people injured, 123 of those through knee-to-face contact, while others had suffered broken wrists, ankles and ribs.

The relentless wave of injuries became such a concern to the local hospital, the Countess of Chester, that a delegation of clinicians visited the venue to find out what was going on.

Customers, many just children, were injured at the trampoline park after using the Tower Jump, where people launched themselves from a window 17-foot in the air and landed into a foam pit.

Flip Out safety video

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The adventure park was billed as the largest of its kind in the world, but just a day after opening the injuries began.

Some suffered "life-changing" spinal injuries to their backs, many required surgery, others told the court how they have suffered life-changing injuries, long-lasting psychological trauma and may in future require a wheelchair.

There was a "cavalier" approach to safety, the court heard, despite multiple people being injured on a daily basis. The worst injured suffered damaged vertebrae, some resulting in life-long health problems while many others suffered 'knee to face' injuries causing dental and facial injuries.

Louise Wright broke her back at the adventure park

Louise Wright, from Liverpool, suffered a broken back, she told LBC News: "I can't do anywhere near what I used to do. I have to work from home full time, I'm on medication, I get tired easily, my mental health gets low, and I was a happy person beforehand.

"I must have just landed in a hole, because they didn't move the foam around at all. It's not just myself that was injured, I'm just one of many, there were children injured. People broke their arms, legs, ribs, had all sorts of injuries. Just because you don't have a wheelchair doesn't mean your life hasn't been severely impacted.

"I feel like they got off lightly. If they were actually sorry they'd do an awful lot more than pretend it's impacted their life because it hasn't the way it's impacted everyone else."

Shuttleworth, of Stoke-on-Trent, and Melling, of Spinningfields, Manchester, both pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to a single count of negligence under health and safety law between December 2016 and February 2017.

Tower Jump in the trampoline park
Tower Jump in the trampoline park. Picture: Chester Police

Judge Michael Leeming said he was passing sentence on the basis the two defendants were negligent rather than committing deliberate acts or cost cutting at the expense of safety and he was constrained by the sentencing guidelines and the law.

He said: "There's no evidence the company took any steps at all, including reasonably practical ones to reduce or eliminate those risks. Common sense says investigating why an accident has happened reduces the risk of further accidents.

"The sentence will be less than many people hoped for and many people think you deserve."

Shuttleworth was fined £6,500 and Melling £6,300, with each ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid community service.

Also, Shuttleworth was ordered to pay £50,000 costs and Melling £10,000 costs, to go towards the £250,000 prosecution costs and council investigation.

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cabinet Member for Homes, Planning and Safer Communities, Councillor Christine Warner said: “The statistics in this case are truly shocking.  Residents and visitors in Cheshire West and Chester are entitled to expect that public recreation facilities in the borough are safe.

“These Directors were both aware that members of the public were being injured but their approach to investigating why that was happening and therefore ensuring public safety, was negligent.

“The Council is the regulator of facilities like Flip Out and has a responsibility to protect the public.  The conviction and sentence of these two individuals sends a message to all those running popular recreation facilities of any sort.”

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