Eydon equestrian business fined over death

Court news
Court news

An equestrian business in South Northamptonshire has been ordered to pay a total of £47,120 following the death of an employee.

On Thursday, September 11, 2014, 37-year-old Kate Mathews was helping to load cross-country horse jumps onto a flatbed trailer at Foxhills Farm in Eydon.

Kate Mathews

Kate Mathews

One of the pieces of equipment, a one tonne log, rolled from the loading machine which was being operated by Lesley Smith, director of Foxhill Equestrian Ltd.

The log struck Miss Mathews, killing her.

At Northampton Crown Court on Monday, July 3, the company was fined and ordered to pay costs after pleading guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 following a prosecution brought by South Northamptonshire Council (SNC).

Her Honour Judge Lucking QC ordered the company to pay a £7,500 fine, £39,500 costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

She acknowledged the company had no previous convictions, had admitted guilt at the earliest available opportunity, and gave credit for Smith’s co-operation during the investigation.

The judge, noting the close bond between Smith and Matthews, added: “This is a particularly sad case; I make it clear that under no circumstances can the fine I am bound to impose upon this business, Foxhills Equestrian Ltd, reflect the value of a life that was lost.”

The company pleaded guilty to a single offence which incorporated a number of failings in that it did not carry out a suitable or sufficient risk assessment, had not used suitable equipment to carry out the task, and did not have a safe system of work in place.

Dermot Bambridge, SNC’s councillor for environmental services, said: “This is a tragic case but it was avoidable, and I implore rural businesses to look as this case and then look at their own working practices.

“Dangers are plentiful in all work places, particularly in rural businesses. Employers are required by law to ensure the safety and welfare of their employees and visitors to their premises.”

He added: “It is essential that proper risk assessments are undertaken, staff are properly trained and safe systems of work are in place.”