Partnership sentenced for lake safety failures

September 29, 2014

Pascal Bates has prosecuted a farming partnership which was fined £60,000 plus £31,252.12 in costs for water safety failures that led to the death of a 17 year old worker at a lake on a wetland wildlife reserve.

The reserve near Wicken, Cambridgeshire, said to be essential to wildfowl in East Anglia, was run by the partnership on behalf of a wildfowl charity. The victim went out on a 20-25 acre lake in a small rowing boat to retrieve the carcasses of Canada geese culled in a shoot the previous day. He was not wearing, and had not been required to wear, a lifejacket or other floatation aid and had not been trained in the use of the boat. Wearing Wellington boots and outdoor clothing, he fell, some way from shore,into the cold lake water, which was up to 8 feet deep in places and had a thick muddy bottom, andquickly got into difficulty. His 23 year old brother struck out from land in an attempt to rescue him, and almost succeeded, but ultimately both of them drowned.

The proceedings raised a number of legal issues in relation to the liability of a partnership under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for safety shortcomings if that partnership is not an employer (by reason of engaging its workforce as independent contractors). The factual issues included questions as to the extent and value of partnership real property assets accounted for at old historical cost (since when they had appreciated markedly), but committed for the future use of the wetland wildlife reserve and/or as occupied dwellings and thus difficult to value or realise.

To see BBC coverage of this case click here