Bury St Edmunds: Horse tragedy - council had assessed risk, court is told

The accident happened in Nowton Park

The accident happened in Nowton Park - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk council accused of breaching health and safety legislation after a grandmother was fatally injured when a horse bolted into the crowd at a country fair had carried out a suitable risk assessment before the event, it has been claimed.

Martin Barnard, a former health and safety principal specialist inspector, told a jury that the event organiser, employed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council, had done everything “reasonably practicable” to control the risk to visitors to Nowton Park Country Fair and could not be expected to have considered the risk of a bolting horse.

He claimed that Duncan Drye, the operator of the horse and carriage rides at the fair in June 2011, was responsible for assessing the risk posed by a bolting horse and not the council.

Mr Barnard said that John Smithson, St Edmundsbury’s parks operations manager, had walked round the site of the fair with Drye before the event and discussed the best location and route for the horse and carriage rides in relation to the funfair, stalls and crowds.

He said Mr Smithson had known Drye for more than a year as a result of horse and carriage rides he operated at other local events and was entitled to take that into consideration in assessing his competence as a horse and carriage ride operator.

Mr Barnard was giving evidence at Ipswich Crown Court on the fourth day of the trial of the borough council, which has denied failing to ensure that visitors to the country fair were not exposed to to risks to their health and safety.

Drye, 64, of Bishops Road, Bury, has admitted the charge.

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Carole Bullett, of Clark Walk, Bury, died from serious chest injuries in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, after being knocked down by a runaway horse and carriage at the country fair.

It has been alleged that consequences of the horse bolting into a crowd while attached to a carriage could have been avoided if adequate risk assessment checks had been carried out before the event.

The trial continues today.