‘A tragic case’: Equestrian centre fined over employee’s death

  • An equestrian centre has been fined £7,500 in a “particularly sad case” involving the death of an employee.

    Foxhill Farm was prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act by South Northamptonshire Council, in relation to the death of Kate Matthews.

    On 11 September 2014, 37-year-old Ms Matthews was helping load cross-country jumps on to a flatbed trailer at the farm, in Eydon, Northamptonshire.

    A one-tonne log rolled from the loading machine, which was being operated by Foxhill Equestrian Ltd director Lesley Smith, and hit and killed Ms Matthews.

    At Northampton Crown Court on Monday (3 July), Judge Lucking QC fined the company £7,500 and ordered it to pay £39,500 costs and a £120 surcharge.

    She said the company had no previous convictions, and had admitted guilt at the earliest opportunity, and gave credit to Mrs Smith for her co-operation during the investigation.

    She said Ms Matthews and Mrs Smith had a very close relationship, adding: “This is a particularly sad case; I make it clear that under no circumstances can the fine I am bound to impose upon this business, Foxhill Equestrian Ltd, reflect the value of a life that was lost.”

    Mrs Smith described Ms Matthews as a “dear family friend”, who had worked at Foxhill for 15 years.

    “We had a very strong friendship; [Kate] was like a sister to my sons,” she told H&H.

    “Her death devastated our family, and Kate’s mother and sister, and we’re deeply saddened by the whole situation.

    “That day has lived with our family ever since and will probably never disappear.”

    Mrs Smith paid tribute to the support those in the area had shown to her family and Foxhill Farm since the tragedy.

    “We’ve had massive support and understanding and I want to thank everyone,” she said.

    “We have to remember Kate with happiness now, and think of the good times. But we will never forget her; she will always be a part of Foxhill Farm.”

    Cllr Dermot Bambridge, the council’s portfolio holder for environmental services, described the case as “tragic”.

    He added: “I implore rural businesses to look at this case and then look at their own working practices.

    “Dangers are plentiful in all workplaces, particularly in rural businesses. Employers are required by law to ensure the safety and welfare of their employees and visitors to their premises.

    “It is essential proper risk assessments are undertaken, staff are properly trained and safe systems of work are in place.”

    The company pleaded guilty to one offence, which incorporated a number of failings in that it did not carry out a suitable or sufficient risk assessment, had not used suitable equipment to carry out the task, and did not have a safe system of work in place.

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