MARK DANIELS - Adviser on visitor and occupational health and safety at historic buildings, parks, gardens, coast and countryside

News - Warwick Castle case

24th April 2012

Health and safety defended case - Warwick Castle

Charges have been brought by Warwick District Council under the Health and Safety at Work Act against Merlin Attractions Ltd., the company operating Warwick Castle. Merlin Attractions Ltd. was accused of failing to take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent visitors falling from height when entering or leaving the castle via a bridge, in that the Castle failed to provide a barrier to protect visitors from falling from the bridge, failed to post warning signs, failed to ensure adequate lighting and failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment. Merlin Attractions Ltd. defended the charges at the trial in Warwick Crown Court. The case started on 16th April and lasted for 7 days. The case and the outcome are of considerable interest to organisations which own and manage historic structures and those involved in the field of visitor safety management.

The case followed the death of an elderly visitor to the Castle in December 2007. George Townley fell from the bridge, falling over the low parapet wall and into the dry moat 15' below. It was understood at the time that Mr Townley suffered a heart attack but died from head injuries. An original BBC News report from 10 December 2007 can be found here - news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/coventry_warwickshire/7136076.stm 

News coverage of the trial was featured in the Kenilworth Weekly News. The first day's summary is here:
www.kenilworthweeklynews.co.uk/news/local/warwick-castle-bridge-death-trial-witnesses-describe-seeing-man-fall-into-moat-1-3739136.
Subsequent reporting is here:
www.kenilworthweeklynews.co.uk/news/local/warwick-castle-death-trial-bridge-presented-a-risk-to-the-public-says-inspector-1-3755216.
www.kenilworthweeklynews.co.uk/news/local/warwick-castle-bridge-death-trial-castle-safety-officer-says-risk-assessments-were-carried-out-1-3755108.
Some more detail here - www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/2012/04/18/pensioner-killed-after-falling-from-bridge-at-warwick-castle-92746-30782355/.

The case concluded on Tuesday 24th April. Merlin Attractions Ltd. was found guilty on two charges - one under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (fine of £300,000), and one under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (fine of £50,000).  Costs of £145,000 were imposed. Details of the verdict are here:
www.warwickcourier.co.uk/news/local/warwick-castle-bridge-death-trial-company-fined-350-000-after-guilty-verdicts-1-3768404.
www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/south-warwickshire-news/2012/04/25/firm-fined-350-000-after-man-dies-at-warwick-castle-92746-30832873/ (includes additional comments from the EHO for Warwick DC).

A further article with more detail is here:
www.shponline.co.uk/incourt-content/full/warwick-castle-operator-fined-350-000-in-moat-death-trial

Warwick Castle provided a response, reported in the Leamington Courier on 30th April:
www.leamingtoncourier.co.uk/news/local/warwick-castle-responds-to-outcome-of-court-case-1-3783110

Some further detail and analysis appeared in a case summary on the web site theEHP.com:
theehp.com/2012/05/11/health-safety-warwick-castle-fatal-accident-case-summary/

For additional discussion, please see the Commentary pages on this site, and the Forum pages on the VSCG web site.

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