By IH 27/07 Updated: 27/07 12:25
WARWICKSHIRE County Council will be sentenced in December after pleading guilty to a health and safety charge following the deaths of the four firefighters in the Atherstone warehouse tragedy.
John Averis, Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley and Ian Reid lost their lives tackling the massive blaze in in November 2007.
The council admitted failing to ensure safety at work during a hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court in January, and the case will be heard at Stafford Crown Court on December 3. It is expected to last up to two weeks.
Three senior fire officers, in charge on the fateful night, were acquitted in May of the manslaughter of the four firefighters following a £4.6 million investigation.
In a directional hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, Mr Justice MacDuff, expressed concern at "the huge sum of money" the case had already cost taxpayers.
Mr MacDuff, who sat on the trial of the senior officers, said: "For these offences there can only be a financial penalty.
"There is no person to imprison or to send to do community service. So there is a financial penalty imposed on the corporation for corporate failings - and people who were not responsible will suffer."
Mr MacDuff added he wanted all parties involved to reflect upon the costs and length of time already spent on the case when considering what directions they wished him to make for the sentencing hearing.
A spokesperson for the county council said: “The investigation, over the last five years, has already cost several million pounds of public money. We are every bit as concerned, as the judge is, that any further expenditure to the tax payer is kept to a minimum and we are doing our best to avoid any additional costs to the public purse.”
The bodies of Mr Stephens, 20, Mr Averis, 27, and Mr Yates-Badley, 24, were found in the gutted warehouse.
Mr Reid, 44, died later in hospital.
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