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A castle keeper ordered to pay £350,000 as fines for failing to assess the risk of a bridge in the castle which caused the death of a grandfather (4 April 2012)

Date: 04/04/2012
Duncan Lewis, Legal News Solicitors, A castle keeper ordered to pay £350,000 as fines for failing to assess the risk of a bridge in the castle which caused the death of a grandfather

Warwick Castle one of Britain’s most famous castles has been fined £350,000, after a grandfather fell 15 ft to his death from a bridge into a dry moat.

The bridge which had a very low parapet could not support the stumbling George Townley 72, from falling when he was leaving after a day out with his partner and her family.

The pensioner died the next day due to the injuries he sustained in the fall the Warwick Crown Court heard.

The castle, build by William the Conqueror in 1608 did not have sufficient measures to protect visitors crossing the bridge and failed to asses the appropriate risk involved, the judge was told.
Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd, which runs the castle, was found guilty of two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act in relation to the retired mechanic's death in December 2007.
Judge Nigel Godsmark QC ordered the company to pay £350,000 in fines. He said: 'This matter arose from the tragic death of George Townley.
The judge said that the death was tragic and unfortunate. The judge said that he thought the risk of the bridge was more to children than to adult pedestrians. He added that Merlin had failed in its duty.
The prosecutor Barry Berlin said that it was crystal clear that there was a material risk at the castle which resulted in people being put to risk.
He added that on any account the bridge should have been assessed for dangers involved as it was a major conduit to the castle. Warning signs should have been adorning the barrier.
The defence counsel said that Merlin who took the charge of Warwick Castle in 1978 accepted the parapet wall was low but he pointed out that there had been 20 million visitors who had crossed the bridge since the company had taken up the castle.
He said the risk was insignificant with the risk being one in 80 million chances of an accident. It was hard to see how there was a significant risk.'
Merlin was found guilty of failing to take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent or protect visitors when entering or leaving the castle via the bridge from falling from a considerable height.
It was also found guilty of failing in its duty to provide preventative and protective measures.
As well as a £350,000 fine, the company was also ordered to pay costs of £145,000 to Warwick District Council.

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