Neville Scattergood suffered fatal cardiac arrest after being struck by a falling oak branch while walking his dogs in Stafford in October 2019
Image: Staffordshire County Council)
A council was fined £ 300,000 after a dog handler was killed by a falling tree on a public footpath.
Neville Scattergood, 58, suffered fatal cardiac arrest after being struck by a falling oak tree on the Isabel Trail in Stafford on October 3, 2019.
Now the Staffordshire County Council, which owns the way, has been fined for previously admitting violating health and safety laws.
The council chair “unreservedly” apologized for the tragedy, reports StokeOnTrent Live.
The North Staffordshire Justice Center heard that although the agency had systems in place to ensure the safety of trees on public roads, the oak in question had been removed from the inspection list due to an “administrative error”.
This meant that there had been no proactive inspection for at least a decade prior to the fatal accident.
Chris Hopkins, who was prosecuting the case for the Health and Safety Executive, told the court that this meant previous damage to the tree, which was more likely to topple it, went undetected. If this problem had been recognized, simply pruning the tree would have eliminated the risk of falling.
The council had received around two complaints a year about trees on the Isabel Trail, each of which was addressed individually.
The court heard that Neville, 58, who regularly used the Isabel Trail to walk his dogs, was a carer and received an award from council chairman Alan White for his service to the community.
A statement from Neville’s father-in-law, David Jenkinson, that his loss would be felt by his family for the rest of their lives.
David Lewis, who represents the district council, said the agency had not deliberately ignored certain trees to save money or for any other reason.
He said, “This council has tree care systems in place. More than 99 percent of its trees have been covered by these systems. Less than one percent of the trees have not been inspected due to an administrative error.”
However, District Judge Kevin Grego noted that the council had not put in place a mechanism to detect this bug, despite prior public concerns about the trees on the Isabel Trail.
Judge Grego said, “Between 2009 and 2019 there were approximately 20 public reports of trees on the Isabel Trail. Some complained about maintenance and some concerned fallen trees.
“The agency responded to these reports, but they did not spark a broader view of the trees on the Isabel Trail.”
The council had admitted that he had failed to comply with a general health and safety obligation towards anyone other than the worker, which is a criminal offense under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
In addition to the fine, the local council was ordered to pay a cost of £ 13,165 plus a sacrifice surcharge of £ 181.
After the hearing, Council Chairman Alan White said: “On behalf of Staffordshire County Council, I would like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Mr Scattergood and my unreserved apologies for the shortcomings in the agency in this case.
“Although there is no consolation for those concerned, the council has fully recognized its responsibility and has fulfilled its obligations to the family of Mr Scattergood at the earliest opportunity.
“I once presented Mr. Scattergood with an award for his work helping others, and the death of someone you know is a clear reminder of the responsibility we have as a council.
“After this terrible incident, we reviewed our system of controls and maintenance planning and did everything in our power to improve it.”
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