by Sally Murrer
Leading baby and children’s retail chain Mamas and Papas Ltd has been fined £20,000 for selling tens of thousands of child car seats that could cause head injuries.
The dramatic move, which also saw a distributor jailed, comes as a result of a three year special investigation by Milton Keynes Council's Trading Standards department.
The team spent three years testing the Mamas and Papas branded Mercury model child car seats in a crash simulation with a child sized dummy. They were found to crack and allow excessive head movement, which could cause head and other injuries to a child.
What to do if you have one of the car seats
The seats, suitable for children from birth to four years old, were sold in Argos between January 2013 and April 2016, and have since been recalled.
People still using one of them should stop doing so immediately and return it to Argos for a full refund, or call them on 0345 640 2020, urged Trading Standards chiefs today.
Yesterday Mamas and Papas (M&P Ltd) and Christine Mitchell, who is director of car seat distributors Jeenay (UK) Ltd, appeared in court for the Milton Keynes Council prosecution.
Mamas and Papas was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs to the council. Some £275,000 worth of their profits from the sale of the car seats will now be confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Ms Mitchell was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison and will have £236,000 of profit confiscated.
'Both defendants have let down parents and put children at risk'
Representatives from M&P Ltd and Christine Mitchell had both pleaded guilty at earlier hearings to the supply of unsafe car seats, an offence under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005.
Sue Crawley, head of MK Trading Standards said, “We spent a lot of time investigating this case and hope the prosecution sends a message to other businesses large and small that Trading Standards takes a hard line on the supply of unsafe and potentially dangerous goods.”
His Honour Judge Rochford said during the hearing, “No parent will compromise the safety of their child. They are entitled to expect products they buy to accord with safety regulations. In relation to Mamas and Papas Ltd, a well-known and reputable brand,they can expect the standards to be as high as they can be. Both defendants have let down parents and put children at risk."
He added, “By October 2015 Christine Mitchell was well aware of safety issues and chose not to act upon them properly. She was wholly indifferent to whether seats were safe in terms of the R44 regime but also in terms of the safety of children. She was content for corners to be cut.
“As for M&P they entrusted Christine Mitchell and assumed R44 to be watertight but systems were not in place or operating properly and their failures have led to unsafe products being placed on the market.
“Ceaseless vigilance is to be ensured. The harm caused was to allow 150,000 car seats that did not conform to R44 and therefore not safe on to the market and a risk that they may be involved in accidents. The Courts need to send a message that those responsible for safety carry a high level of responsibility if regulations are breached of which the Courts must treat seriously and punish accordingly.”
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Milton Keynes Citizen