A COUNCIL has been fined £133,000 after a dangerous wall collapsed onto a six-year-old girl leaving her with brain damage.

The young girl was left critically ill in hospital after the structure fell upon her in Fleetway, Vange.

Basildon Council had previously admitted one breach of health and safety regulations - specifically a failure to discharge its duty to protect the health and safety of persons other than its employees - and was sentenced on Friday.

The council was fined £133,333 and ordered to pay costs of £21,419.55.

During the prosecution Basildon Crown Court heard it was “clearly a terrible accident which was completely preventable had proper and robust system been in place at the time”.

The court also heard concerns had been raised about the stability of the wall - which is jointly owned by private residents and the council - about five years earlier in 2011.

The boundary wall ran along the back of two properties and along a public footpath.

The homeowners had sought to negotiate with the council on getting it replaced.

Both families had made regular complaints to both Basildon Council and Essex Highways including a complaint to Basildon Council’s customer service team in October 2014 which raised specific concerns about the wall being at risk of collapsing.

An inspector visited the wall in May 2016 and identified a potential problem with the wall and it was at moderate risk of collapse.

He also noted it was leaning.

However repairs were not made and in August 2016 the wall collapsed.

The Health and Safety Executive claimed the staff responsible for inspecting the wall and categorising its risk of collapse were not properly qualified to make that judgement and were not supervised.

Christine Agnew, prosecuting for the HSE, described the repair system as “largely reactionary”.

She added: “There was inadequate instruction, training and supervision which led to an inadequate inspection system.

“As a result of the council’s failures, employees were put at risk and a six-year-old girl was seriously injured when that risk materialised.”

Ms Agnew stated a bike by the wall took some of the wall’s weight.

She added: “It is only through good fortune that the child did not suffer fatal injuries.”

The girl has since returned to mainstream school but still sees a consultant on a regular basis.

She has some difficulty with her hearing and the court heard because she is still so young, it is not possible to know what the long-term impact may be.

A Basildon Council spokesman said: “The council deeply regrets the incident but is pleased the judge recognised its efforts in taking immediate action to considerably reduce the likelihood of such an incident occurring again.

“The judge said it is clear that since the incident the council has taken immediate steps to put in a system that is now suitably robust.

“He also noted the council’s cooperation in such a complex case and guilty plea at the first available opportunity.

“Since the incident, which occurred at a property not owned by the council but adjacent to a council property, the council has taken numerous steps to increase checks and tighten its own reporting processes.

"The council has reminded all residents, including those who own their own homes or rent from the council and other landlords, how to check the safety of their walls and to report any concerns.”