Chatsworth House Trust and a horse trials event organiser have denied any health and safety breaches after a motorcyclist collecting show results at the estate crashed into a ditch and died from his injuries.
A Leicester Crown Court trial heard on Tuesday, July 19, how motorcyclist Frederick Bolton, 78, of Sheffield, fell into the hazard at the Ice House entrance at Chatsworth as the motorbike he was riding landed on top of him during the annual Chatsworth House Horse Trials.
Prosecuting barrister Michael Auty QC said: “He went over a lip and the bike turned over and landed on top of him. He fractured his spine and was air-lifted to the Queen’s Medical Centre at Nottingham and was moved to Yorkshire a few days later but sadly died of his injuries.
“The prosecution say that this was completely and utterly unnecessary and avoidable.”
Following the death on May 12, 2013, Derbyshire Dales District Council launched a prosecution against the Chatsworth House Trust and Chatsworth Horse Trial event organiser Felicity Jane Reason for alleged offences committed under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Mr Auty QC added: “The prosecution case is that the reason he died is because people with whom there was a legal duty of care towards him didn’t think, either at all or significantly, about his welfare and safety. His death was unnecessary and readily avoidable with just a little thought.”
He also claimed that there was a failure to identify a risk at the horse trial obstacle because if you approached the Ice House from one side the drop could not be seen and that also meant there was a failure to manage that risk.
Mr Auty QC argued that nothing was written into any paperwork about how bikers should deal with this hazard as they moved back and forth with results and no action was taken to put up a sign or fencing.
Horse trial judge Caroline Lester told the court: “I heard a trials bike coming along and didn’t take any notice but then heard a difference in its engine and I realised it had gone over the edge.”
Derbyshire Detective Constable Christopher Ronayne, of the collision investigation unit, confirmed the sharp drop at the Ice House entrance is completely invisible, according to Mr Auty QC.
Mr Auty QC added that email correspondence between Chatsworth House Trust and Miss Reason had also indicated that health and safety was not being given serious consideration and it was being regarded as a “hot potato being passed back and forth” instead of actually establishing the risks.
He added: “There was an enormous great hole in the programme that presented a blindingly obvious risk about which they did absolutely nothing and that’s not right.”
At the time, Chatsworth House Trust declined to discuss with investigators what had happened, according to Mr Auty QC, and Miss Reason stated that a safety brief was held with the bike riders discussing maps and the course.
Chatsworth House Trust is accused of failing to ensure the safety of employees and non-employees and failing to ensure they would not be exposed to risk at the Ice House entrance.
Miss Resaon is accused of failing to ensure the safety of persons other than employees and that they would not be exposed to a health and safety risk at the Ice House entrance.
Both the trust and Miss Reason have pleaded not guilty. The trial is to continue for two to three weeks.