Calls for safety regulations after electrocution kills Cirencester professor
By Court reporter | 2nd May 2019
A coroner has voiced her concern at the lack of electrical safety checks on rented properties after hearing how a respected university lecturer was electrocuted by a faulty immersion heater at his Cotswold farmhouse home.
The family of popular Professor John Alliston, 70, say he would not have died if there had been legislation requiring landlords to get electrical safety certificates on their properties.
Mr Alliston was killed when metal fittings in the house he had just rented with his wife Petey became 'live' due to the lack of safety measures such as a residual current protection device.
Co-incidentally, the government started considering the issue of electrical safety in rented homes not long after the professor's death in 2017 and a new working party set up to draft legislation is due to meet for the first time later this month.
But following a two-day inquest this week into Mr Alliston's death the Gloucestershire coroner, Katie Skerrett, is now considering whether to write to the government recommending that the proposed new legislation is rushed through to prevent future similar tragedies.
She said she will consider over the next ten days whether she should send a 'Preventing Further Deaths' report to the government.
"I am worried that it (the passing of legislation) may be left non-prioritised so I have to consider hard: is there a risk of future deaths occurring? In my mind at the moment there is," she said.
The inquest jury recorded a conclusion that Mr Alliston's death at Manor Farm House, Coates, near Cirencester on June 8, 2017 was an accident.
The jury forewoman stated "The electrical fault was a defective heating element in the water boiler, which caused the exposed conductive parts to become live.
"On contact with a live exposed conductive part, Mr Alliston was fatally electrocuted.
"This occurred due to the absence of Residual Current Protection, namely Equipotential Bonding and a Residual Current Device (RCD).
"Manor Farm House was not checked for electrical safety prior to rental. There is currently no requirement under legislation for mandatory electrical safety checks for rented properties."
Professor Alliston's widow Petey said after the hearing "I think it is extremely important, going forward, that RCDs are made a legal requirement. Gas Safety is covered by legislation at the moment but not electrical.
"In Scotland I believe RCDs are compulsory - they should now also be in England and Wales.
"I think the inquest jury have reached the right conclusion. My husband was electrocuted because of various inadequacies and electricians not doing a safe and proper job in that house.
"I think it is extremely important that the coroner writes about this to the government - I think it is an incredibly basic requirement that rented houses should be certified to be electrically safe.
"This was a stupid, stupid thing (my husband's death) to have happened. It shouldn't have happened and it wouldn't have happened if the necessary laws were in place. It is a dead easy thing to do.
"It's crazy and ridiculous that there is gas safety legislation but not electrical. His death is a waste, a shocking waste not just for our family but for all the people he helped in the past and all the people he would have helped in the future - and there would have been many."
Professor Alliston was a lecturer at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, where he had worked for 20 years.
More than six hundred past and present students and colleagues attended an event in his memory at the college after his death.
His son Mike said: "The inquest has been a fairly traumatic couple of days, re-living the circumstances around dad's death, which is still very fresh in our minds.
"It seems that very simple actions could have prevented his death - and potentially the death of anyone else who lived at the property, including my mother and a local gardener who went to his aid when his body was still 'live' and capable of electrocuting others.
"Perhaps this inquest can be the stretch point for the government to tighten up the way properties are let so that this does not happen again."
Professor Alliston had been Dean of Agriculture at the RAU and had worked there for over 20 years.
He was also Course Director for the Institute of Agricultural Management Leadership Course, the Worshipful Company of Farmers Business Management Course and for the John Edgar Trust Management Development Scheme.
He was a fellow of the Institute of Agricultural Management, a fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies and the Institution of Agricultural Engineers.
And he seved as Chairman of the Henry Plumb Foundation, a charity which provides funding and mentoring for young people wishing to enter the agricultural industry.
He had special interests in global trade, maize production, beef, sheep, and dairying.
He is survived by his wife, sons Mike and James and sister Jill.
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