DISCOUNT giant Poundstretcher has failed in an Appeal Court challenge against its £1m fine for health and safety offences at three stores including one in Swindon.

Last December the chain admitted 24 breaches of the legislation in the stores.

The claims related to overstocked store rooms in Swindon, Newbury and Newhaven, which put staff at risk of injury, as well as lack of training and protection for junior workers.

It was fined £1m at Portsmouth Crown Court. The sentencing judge said store managers had been unable to cope with pressure to get stock into shops and onto shelves.

Local managers felt they had to accept deliveries when they did not have enough staff to deal with the stock, said Judge Roger Hetherington.

Specific allegations involving individual employees at Swindon and Newbury were of a failure to train, do risk assessments or to provide protective clothing.

The chain appeal against the size of the fine. The breaches related only to three of its stores, it said, while a £1m was significant to a company which was financially stretched.

But Court of Appeal judge, Mr Justice Popplewell, said the company had 21 previous convictions for similar health and safety offences. And despite the stretched finances claim, it had opened 44 new stores in 2018 alone.

"This amply demonstrates that this is not a company for whom a fine of £1m, payable within 18 months, is in any way unjust or disproportionate, or such that it would be difficult for the company to meet," he said.

"The judge was well aware the failings were in relation to particular stores, but they were breaches in a number of stores, reflective of systemic failings in senior management which had occurred many times before and not been put right."

The crown court judge was also right to find that it was enough just to have a system in place for complying with health and safety legislation, he continued.

The appeal was dismissed and the fine was upheld.

The court heard the company had an exemplary health and safety since the offences.