A heartbroken widow has slammed a judicial decision to dismiss a health and safety case involving the death of her husband at Chatsworth International Horse Trials.
Derbyshire Dales District Council had been prosecuting Chatsworth House Trust and horse trial event organiser Felicity Jane Reason under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 after motorcyclist Frederick Bolton, 78, of Handsworth, Sheffield, had died from injuries after an accident at the Ice House obstacle.
Leicester Crown Court heard during a recent trial how Mr Bolton had been collecting results during the horse trials on May 12, 2013, when he crashed over a 1.2metre drop at the Ice House when there had not been warning signs, fencing or related paperwork.
However, Recorder William Harbage QC accepted defence arguments that there was no case to answer on the grounds Mr Bolton was responsible for his safety and other riders did not regard the obstacle as dangerous. He subsequently advised the jury yesterday, Monday, July 25, to return not guilty verdicts.
Mr Bolton’s widow Pam Bolton, 66, said: “We don’t feel justice has been served. I’m very disappointed after everything we have been through in the last three years.
“At the end everyone walks away but we don’t. We’ve had no closure.
“We still feel there is a case to answer.
“For my husband to go the way he did he must have been trying to avoid something else and we feel he was forced into this position by avoiding something.
“He was a very fit and active man and we were married for 35 years. I have lost my husband and his daughter Emma has lost her father and we miss him very much.
“He was a good man and he was always very responsible in his dealings with people.”
Prosecuting barrister Michael Auty QC told how Mr Bolton went over a blind drop and his motorcycle turned over and landed on top of him.
The court heard how Mr Bolton suffered a fractured spine and he was air-lifted to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham and he was moved to Yorkshire days later but sadly died of his injuries.
Mrs Bolton added: “He had been left paralysed from the neck down but was conscious but couldn’t speak because he had breathing apparatus down his throat.
“It was torture for him and for us and he died three weeks after the incident.”
Mr Auty had argued that Chatsworth House Trust and Ms Reason had not considered Mr Bolton’s welfare and safety, and there had been a failure to identify and manage a risk, and Mr Bolton’s death had been avoidable.
But defence barrister James Maxwell-Scott, representing Chatsworth House Trust, argued Mr Bolton had chosen to engage in an activity with dangers and he was responsible for his own safety and other trail bike riders had indicated the Ice House obstacle was not considered as dangerous.
Defence barrister Simon Antrobus, representing Ms Reason, also stated that there was no “material risk” at the obstacle and other trail bikers had stated that any risk was “incidental” and no one expected this to be covered by Chatsworth House Trust or Ms Reason.
He added that the obstacle was being dealt with by experienced riders and health and safety procedures used were established ones from previous years and no one had previously identified the drop as a risk.
Recorder Harbage told the jury: “I have agreed there is no case for either defendant to answer. I have assessed whether there was a material risk for Chatsworth House Trust and Ms Reason and whether they ought to have protected Frederick Bolton from this risk.
“You heard from others and the trail riders and they all said they don’t see the Ice House as a big deal and that it is no worse than those they come across on their trail riding and one said they would not expect this area to be fenced off just for them.”
He added that given the bikers expected a certain risk it was also not expected that Chatsworth House Trust should have taken any measures.
He told the jury: “There is no material risk and there is no case to go to the jury and I withdraw that and now direct that you find the defendants not guilty.”
The jury found Chatsworth House Trust not guilty of failing to ensure the safety of employees and non-employees and failing to ensure that they would not be exposed to risk at the Ice House.
They also found Ms Reason not guilty of failing to ensure the safety of persons other than employees and that they would not be exposed to a risk at the Ice House.