A YORK housing trust has beened ordered to pay £78,000 over a health and safety breach discovered during the investigation into the death of a resident at one of its homes.

It has also emerged that Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) had been warned about the safety of communal room windows at another of its homes, Lamel Beeches, in Heslington Road, York, two years before Dora Strickland, 90, jumped to her death through a second floor bedroom window at Red Lodge, New Earswick.

After the death, York Crown Court heard, the Trust unsuccessfully tried to overturn a City of York Council improvement notice forcing it to upgrade safety features for windows in residents’ windows at Red Lodge. The windows now have improved safety measures.

York Press:

A jury convicted the Trust of not having a proper risk assessment for Red Lodge but acquitted it of exposing residents to the risk of jumping out of windows.

The Trust’s barrister Mark Balysz said the jury’s not guilty verdict meant: “The defendant has no responsibility for the death of Mrs Strickland.”

Its chief executive Campbell Robb said: “We are pleased the judge recognised the significant and substantial work JRHT has done in York and across the North to provide good, safe and secure housing and care services.

“This is at the heart of what we do and we want to reassure our residents in all our care homes that they are safe and will continue to receive high quality care.”

Mrs Strickland’s family, said after the hearing they were relieved it was all over and they could get on with their life. She died in November 2011.

Judge Andrew Stubbs QC praised their dignity throughout the the trial and since her death and offered them his sympathies.

Fining the trust £50,000 and ordering it to pay £28,000 prosecution costs for not having a sufficient risk assessment, the judge said that nothing had been done when Mrs Strickland told a care assistant she wanted to jump through her bedroom window shortly before her death. He said of the Trust’s safety improvements at Red Lodge: “What was done was dragged out of them”. He also said that the Trust had not co-operated fully with the council’s investigation into the death. He reduced the sentence because of the Trust’s record since 1904 of substantial good work in York and in the country as a whole.

Mr Balysz said the risk assessment offence was a “technical” offence and the Trust still believed that it was right not to have restrictors that prevented residents from opening windows “as they do at home”.

The Trust had not immediately implemented the Red Lodge improvement notice because it did not agree with the council’s view regarding restrictors but the two organisations had later come to an agreement.

Earlier, Tom Gent for the council said risk assessments were the “cornerstone” of good health and safety practice.

In 2009, the Health and Safety Executive had issued an improvement notice to install install restrictors on windows in communal areas at Lamal Beeches, Heslington Road, York, following an inspection, and the Trust had done so.

Lamel Beeches received a “good” rating in its latest Care Quality Commission inspection.

Both it and Red Lodge are low dependency care homes and do not cater for residents with dementia or mental incapacity.