Staffordshire County Council has been prosecuted following the death of a member of the public, after failing to inspect and maintain trees on a public footpath.
North Staffordshire Justice Centre
North Staffordshire Justice Centre heard how 58 year old Neville Scattergood died after being struck by the falling oak tree whilst walking his dog on the 3rd of October, 2019. Mr Scattergood had previously worked as a market trader in the town and had even won awards for helping others in the community.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation and found that the tree, a multi-stemmed mature hybrid oak, approximately 12-14 metre high and with a crown radius of between seven and ten metres, had defects from which it was foreseeable that there was a high risk of it falling and causing serious injury.
The Isabel Trail
The tree was located within the boundaries of the Isabel Trail. The Isabel Trail in Staffordshire is roughly 5k beginning on Doxey road and ending on Sandon Road is an extremely popular route amongst the community and often has events such as fun runs taking place along it.
Around 6 people are killed from falling trees or branches in the UK every year. For preventative measures, local authorities including Staffordshire County Council, are legally required to suitably and sufficiently manage the risks and hazards posed by the trees within their responsibility remit. Staffordshire County Council had a programme of proactive inspection and maintenance across the county, but the Isabel Trail had been omitted for many years.
Staffordshire County Council of 1 Staffordshire Place, Stafford pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. They were fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £13,164.90 plus a victim surcharge £181 after previously admitting one breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lyn Mizen said: “This tragic incident could have been averted if the required periodic tree safety inspections, as per the Staffordshire County Council’s own Code of Practice, had been carried out. Local Authorities need to ensure they have suitable inspection systems in place, including monitoring and audit provisions, to guard against situations such as this, and to ensure they have enough suitably trained and competent tree inspectors to enable compliance with their tree management policies and codes of practice.”