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Howard and Byrne Solicitors, York - Criminal Defence Specialists

North Yorkshire County Council NOT Guilty of breaching health and safety rules

North Yorkshire County Council NOT Guilty of breaching health and safety rules

3:12pm 25th May 2010
(Updated 3:43pm 26th May 2010)

North Yorkshire County Council's been found NOT GUILTY of breaching health and safety laws over the death of a boy who drowned on a school caving trip.

14 year old, Joe Lister, died when floodwater swept through Manchester Hole in the Yorkshire Dales in November 2005.

Tracy Gee's been looking back over the case from Minster FM.

So just to recap, 

This afternoon, a month and 11 days since the trial started, a jury at Leeds Crown Court said the County Council did not breach health and safety rules.

It ruled the sudden and rapid rise in water levels wasn't "reasonably foreseeable"

A spokesperson from the council released a statement: 

"We wish to extend again to Mr and Mrs Lister, our profound sympathy over the loss of their son Joe.

The dreadful accident in which he died, has been tragic for everyone involved."

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A statement from the Health and Safety Executive:

"We are very disappointed with the verdict reached by the jury in this case. We feel the HSE presented a compelling case, proving the guilt of North Yorkshire County Council.

"We also feel that there was overwhelming evidence that, out of all the experienced cavers who gave evidence here, only Bewerley Park staff, under the technical expertise of Mr Tony Boyle, would have led a group of children either into Manchester Hole or more importantly past the area of the cave known as the crawl in the weather conditions on 14th November 2005.

"Obviously if they had not gone in the cave, or more importantly past the crawl, Joe would still be here with us today.

"Major emphasis was placed, by North Yorkshire County Councils defence team, on the qualifications of their staff. It therefore seems ironic to us that their most highly qualified member of staff lead this group, consisting of 11 children, an inexperienced voluntary instructor and a teacher who had virtually no caving experience, into such danger. His knowledge of Manchester Hole and the surrounding area was not anywhere near as good as it should have been, given his responsibilities for caving within North Yorkshire County Council.

"It may be that the detailed examination in this court of the actions of North Yorkshire County Council will result in measures being taken to ensure that other young people are not exposed to the terrible and traumatic experiences described to the jury by those who were underground on that fateful day. We fervently hope so.

"Finally, on behalf of all Joe’s family, we would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this case over the last four and a half years for their commitment, time and effort."

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