Warwick Castle fails to overturn fall death fine

By Kevin Unitt Wednesday 19 December 2012 Updated: 27/12 09:05

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The Bear and Clarence Bridge off which George Townley fell. Temporary scaffolding was put up straight after the tragedy. (s)

THE COMPANY which runs Warwick Castle has failed in its bid to overturn a £350,000 fine following the death of a man who fell from a bridge at the historic venue.

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd were convicted of two healthy and safety offences in April this year, following a seven-day trial, and ordered to pay a £350,000 fine plus costs of £145,000.

It followed the death of 72-year-old Berkswell man George Townley in December 2007 after he suffered fatal head injuries falling 14 feet from the castle's Bear and Clarence Bridge.

Merlin claimed the fine was “manifestly excessive” because the trial judge acknowledged it was an isolated lapse in what was otherwise a good health and safety system. They took the case to the Court of Appeal in London but in 17-page judgement delivered on Thursday (December 13) the appeal was rejected.

The court held that the trial judge was clearly entitled to conclude there had been a serious breach of Merlin’s health and safety systems in relation to the Bear and Clarence Bridge. The breach, they added, had resulted in an obvious danger of at least serious injury, to which a very large number of people had been exposed over many years, a product in part of failure to react appropriately to advice given as far back as 2003.

The prosecution of Merlin was brought by Warwick District Council, a spokesman for which said their actions had been vindicated by the Court of Appeal verdict.

District environment chief Coun Michael Coker added: “It is essential that employers maintain suitable health and safety standards in their workplaces. When companies substantially fall below the required standard, it is important that such companies, however large or well thought of, are brought to account.”

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