Before His Honour Judge H K Crowson and jury at Teesside Crown Court
Olivia Burt was 20 years old and a student at Durham University. She sustained fatal head injuries after a decorative fence collapsed whilst Olivia was queuing with friends outside Missoula Nightclub in Durham, on 7 February 2018. The decorative fencing was used for crowd management, which it was neither designed nor suitable for.
After a three-week Health and Safety prosecution by Durham County Council, the jury found Stonegate guilty of failing to ensure the health and safety of those attending the club on the night that Olivia was fatally injured.
Olivia’s parents, Nigel and Paula Burt comment:
Olivia was our only child and meant everything to us. It is incomprehensible to us how she could have died on a night out with friends whilst simply standing in a queue.
Stonegate is the largest pub company in the UK. According to their annual report 2022, Stonegate doubled their revenue to £1.6 billion and their vision is ‘to raise the bar on the British pub by being the best for our guests, people and communities.’ This did not happen at Missoula and led to the death of our wonderful daughter.
Stonegate should never have used decorative fencing for crowd management. Stonegate knew the fencing was not safe after it nearly collapsed the previous year and collapsed just 30 minutes earlier on the night that Olivia died. Stonegate showed a complete dereliction of their duties and disregard for the safety of those attending, including Olivia.
It has been a long journey. We wish to thank Durham County Council for bringing the prosecution and all the witnesses present on the night that Olivia died for having the courage to come to court to give evidence. Our heartbreak and pain have been prolonged by Stonegate pleading not guilty and fighting the case to trial. We have been waiting 1,976 days for Stonegate to be held criminally responsible. We thank the jury for seeing through Stonegate’s smoke and mirrors defence blaming everyone but themselves for what happened to Olivia.
No punishment will bring Olivia back, but we ask the court to impose the maximum sentence in recognition of the fact that Stonegate was responsible for Olivia’s death and destroying our family. Olivia was at the start of her adult life in her first year at university and had so much to look forward to; this was taken away from her in the cruellest possible way.
Our lives will never be the same again – we are heartbroken.
Stonegate will be sentenced today, Thursday 6 July 2023 at 2:30pm.
Background to the case
- Olivia was from Milford on Sea in the New Forest. She was a gifted and beautiful young woman who inspired others. She was head girl at Bournemouth School for Girls and represented Great Britain in sailing. She was a first-year student at Durham University studying natural science.
- Olivia sustained a fatal head injury after decorative fencing used inappropriately for crowd management collapsed whilst she was queuing with friends outside Missoula Nightclub in Durham City Centre. Missoula has now closed and is a Slug & Lettuce Pub. Both were owned by Stonegate Pub Company Limited.
- Stonegate Pub Company Limited is the UK’s largest pub company. Here is the link to their last annual report and financial statements in 2022.
- In February 2022, Durham County Council charged Stonegate with four offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The Health and Safety trial commenced on 19 June 2023 at Teesside Crown Court.
- Olivia’s inquest is currently stayed. There is a mention hearing before HM Coroner for Durham and Darlington on 23 August 2023 at 3.00pm.
- Olivia’s parents faced the additional trauma of Olivia being trolled on Facebook after her death. This led to the conviction and imprisonment of Paul Hinds in November 2018.
- Since Olivia’s death, her parents have founded Olivia Inspires, a charity that helps disadvantaged young people in the New Forest area. Founded in October 2019, Olivia Inspires has already helped over 300 young people.
Nigel and Paula Burt are represented by partner Anna Thwaites of Bindmans LLP.