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Farmer prosecuted after man was crushed by cattle in fatal accident

View profile for Pauline Smith
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Farmer prosecuted after man was crushed by cattle in fatal accident

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have recently prosecuted a farmer for safety breaches which lead to the death of an 83 year old male walker, and which caused his wife serious injuries. 

The couple were using a public right of way across Ivescar Farm, in Carnforth in May 2020. Accompanied by their two small dogs, the couple passed by a herd of grazing cattle, who were rearing their calves in the field adjacent to the right of way. The cattle attacked the couple and trampled them, causing the fatal injury to the elderly gentleman, and his wife’s injuries.

The farmer was found to have breached a section of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £878, ordered to pay costs of almost £8,000 and given a 12 week suspended prison sentence.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that the farmer failed to implement measures to safeguard walkers using the public right of way, by not segregating the cattle and their new calves from the path, and by choosing to let them graze in that field near the path, popular with walkers. The recommendations made by the HSE were that he could have chosen to put sheep in the field, reducing the risk of incidents, or used the field for crops.

Whilst this particular prosecution was made by the HSE under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974, similar cases have been heard under the Animals Act 1971 which states, under Section 2(2) that where damage is caused by an animal which is not of a dangerous species, then the keeper of that animal is liable for damage if:

(a) the damage is of a kind which the animal, unless restrained, was likely to cause or which, if caused by the animal, was likely to be severe; and

(b) the likelihood of the damage or of its being severe was due to characteristics of the animal which are not normally found in animals of the same species or are not normally so found except at particular times or in particular circumstances; and

(c) those characteristics were known to that keeper.

In this particular case, it could be argued also that the “particular circumstances” mentioned in the Animals Act were that the cattle could have been protective of their young calves, and so became aggressive due the presence of the walkers and the dogs, whereas normally they could be considered quite docile creatures. The HSE became involved in this case due the fact that the accident happened on working land.

We are a nation of animal lovers, but, the fact is that many domesticated pets and farm animals etc are capable of inflicting injuries.  However, the Animals Act 1971 is fairly strict in terms of liability. In order to bring a claim, if you have been unfortunate to be injured by an animal, as defined under the Act, then you must be able to prove that the animal had aggressive traits or tendencies, which were known to the keeper of that animal, or there were exceptional circumstances which made that animal act uncharacteristically.

If you have been unfortunate to suffer an injury as a result of an animal attack then our specialist personal injury team can offer advice and help on whether you can make a claim. Please contact us on 0161 696 6235.

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