£90,000 fine after teenager killed during event

June 25, 2024

[Wales] The organisers of a horse and carriage fun day have been fined and ordered to pay costs totalling more than £200,000 after a teenager was killed taking part in an event in Port Talbot.

Angharad Rees, 18, suffered fatal head injuries after she was thrown from the carriage she was driving during an event more than a decade ago.

Swansea Crown Court heard the event had been organised by the British Driving Society and was held on 27 May at Afan Argoed Country Park in Port Talbot, South Wales. The teenager, who was an experienced carriage driver, was taking part in her first competitive off-road event.

Adam Farrer, prosecuting, told the court Miss Rees was using her own horse, Magic, and a carriage belonging to her groom.


“The prosecution case is that the series of failings in the organisation and safety management of the event led to the accident,” Mr Farrer said.

“This was Angharad’s first entry into such an event. Angharad’s life revolved around horses and she was an experienced rider and was confident with her horse, Magic. She had been a Pony Club member since the age of 11, had lessons in dressage and showjumping from the age of 13.”

The court heard the accident happened as Miss Rees’s horse and trap took a right turn and descended down a steep and narrow track.

“During the drive, and within 47 metres after turning right on to the track, Angharad lost control of the trap, resulting in it tipping,” Mr Farrer said.

“Very sadly Angharad’s head struck a tree, causing her severe head injuries from which sadly she died later that day.”

Safety equipment

Mr Farrer said the equipment used in the event was not inspected by organisers before the competition and those taking part were not required to wear safety equipment.

“Competitors were not required to wear any personal protective equipment, including a safety helmet,” he told the court.

“Participants were allowed to choose whether to wear such equipment. On the day of the event it was a warm, hot day and Angharad chose not to wear a helmet.”

The court also heard that before the fatal accident, two horses and carriages waiting in a holding area had bolted, causing people to scatter. One eyewitness thought mountain bikers using the park at the same time were frightening the horses.

Experts instructed by the prosecution said the route was not suitable for carriage driving and was unsafe because it was too narrow and too steep, the court heard.

“The prosecution case is that the evidence demonstrates significant failings by the British Driving Society and the use of the track made the event route dangerous, especially given as the event was described as a fun day with inexperienced participants,” he said.

“The risk assessment was not suitable or sufficient due to the hazards posed by the track and its gradient and uneven surface. The Foresty Commission had not given permission for the event to be held. The British Driving Society did not require competitors to wear personal protective equipment, such as safety helmets. The wearing of safety helmets should have been mandatory, the prosecution say, given the high-risk nature of the event and the significant hazard posed by the route, which included the forestry track.

“The prosecution say that had competitors been required to wear a safety helmet it is likely Angharad’s death would have been avoided.”

The court was told the event was organised by a local riding club affiliated to the British Driving Society, which no longer exists. At a previous hearing the British Driving Society pleaded guilty to four offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act.

Mark Harris, defending, said three directors of the organisation were in court out of “respect” to the legal proceedings.

“The BDS as an organisation had no real opportunity to change or amend the arrangements in place or impose its own normal standards, those which allowed it to be a fault-free organisation for all of its existence apart from this one occasion,” he said.

Judge Geraint Walters imposed a fine of £90,000 and ordered the British Driving Society to pay costs of £140,000.

Passing sentence, the judge said the investigation into the incident uncovered a “casual approach to formality”.

“The evidence in the case compels me to the view that the route used that day was wholly inadequate to ensure the safety of competitors for all myriad of reasons,” he said.

“The reality in this case is that the event was planned with less precision, it seems to me, than might be applied to a church fete. The culpability of this defendant company is not that they deliberately set out to cut corners or wilfully allowed unsafe practices to be deployed.

“But rather having willingly assumed a legal duty to ensure safety, given that the event was held under their auspices, failed to do anything it seems to me, to ensure safety of this event. Their reliance was wholly on the actions of Cimla Ride and Drive Club to ensure safety, which we now know, and they now know, was nigh on non-existent.”

This is valid as of the 24th June 2024.

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