Marks and Spencer has been found guilty of putting construction workers, staff and shoppers at risk of exposure to asbestos during refurbishment work at its Reading store.

The Health & Safety Executive brought the prosecution following refurbishment works at three M&S stores in Plymouth and Bournemouth as well as Reading, but M&S was only convicted over the Reading store and acquitted of the other charges. Two of its contractors were also found guilty, and two other contractors had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing.

M&S was accused of failing to carry out adequate surveys before the works started, and not allocating enough time and space for removal of the asbestos-containing materials at the Reading store.

The contractors at the Reading store worked overnight with the aim of completing small areas of asbestos removal before the shop opened to the public each day. M&S will be sentenced at a later date.

A spokesperson for M&S said “Marks & Spencer is naturally very disappointed with the jury’s verdict and is considering its position. We are unable to comment further until after sentencing, later this year.”