Vue cinema chain fined £750,000 after cinema chair crushed Ateeq Rafiq in 2018
A major cinema chain has been fined £750,000 for safety breaches connected to the death of a film-goer who was crushed under a chair.
Vue Entertainment Ltd was slapped with the major fine at Birmingham Crown Court after Ateeq Rafiq, 24, died while trapped under a cinema chair in 2018.
Desperate attempts were made to release Mr Rafiq from the motorised chair, but he suffered ‘catastrophic’ injuries in the freak accident at the Star City venue in March 2018.
Fining Vue Entertainment, which was also ordered to pay £130,000 in costs, Judge Heidi Kubik QC said Ateeq Rafiq died in ‘an accident that never should have happened’.
The father-of-one had gone with his wife to the cinema at 4.30pm on March 9 and bought tickets from a machine for seats in Gold Class, screen 17.
The couple, from Aston, picked C5 and C6 with Mr Rafiq sitting in C5.
Vue Entertainment Ltd has been fined £750,000 at Birmingham Crown Court for safety breaches after film-goer Ateeq Rafiq died after being trapped under a cinema chair in 2018
Ateeq Rafiq, 24, died after he was crushed by a VIP cinema seat similar to this one while trying to retrieve his mobile phone and car keys
At the end of the film he realised he could not find either his keys or his phone and suspected they may have slipped down the side of his reclining seat.
He got up and went under the seat to check, but the footrest started to come down on him, crushing his head.
The seat occupied by Mr Rafiq – C5 – was found after the accident to have a blown fuse.
Speaking at sentencing today, Judge Heidi Kubik QC said: ‘Nothing I can 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.
‘They have a very positive health and safety record.’
An inquest previously heard that his wife Ayesha Sardar tried to hold it up when she realised what was happening.
Mrs Sardar alerted staff who tried for approximately 10 to 15 minutes before releasing Mr Rafiq.
They could not get the buttons which operated the footrest to work.
Paramedics arrived at 7.55pm and Mr Rafiq was taken to Heartlands Hospital where he died on March 16 after suffering a hypoxic brain injury.
In April 2021, Vue Entertainment Ltd admitted two charges at Birmingham Crown Court under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that persons were not exposed to risk to their health and safety and failing to make a suitable and safe risk assessment between January 1, 2007 and March 9, 2018 in relation to the use of powered cinema seating.
Writing on social media shortly after his death, Mr Rafiq’s wife Ayesha Sardar described her last moments with her husband, who she called her ‘best friend’.
‘When I held your hand for the last time I felt you squeeze it with a different strength, a strength which kind of indicated you knew you were leaving me and Aairah forever,’ Ayesha wrote.
‘I was calling your name and I was holding you as much as I could and I told you I’m there with you like I promised you from day one.
‘I was the last one to ever see you with your eyes open, the last one to hear your voice and the last one to see you smile and I’m so grateful to Allah SWT every day for giving me that chance as your wife.
‘I remember you telling me you love me for the last time and I told you I love you back and our life together ended there for a while.’