Council fined £300,000 after man killed by falling oak tree

A council has been fined £300,000 after a man died when a tree toppled over and hit him on a popular walking path.

Neville Scattergood
Neville Scattergood

Neville Scattergood died after being hit by the falling oak tree on the Isabel Trail – a walking area off Eccleshall Road, in Stafford, on October 3, 2019.

The 58-year-old had previously worked as a market trader in the town and ran his own leather and key-cutting service goods stall at St John’s Market Hall for many years.

At a hearing held at at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court, Staffordshire County Council was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £13,165, plus a victim surcharge of £181 after previously admitting one breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The court heard the tree had not been part of a planned inspection programme since 2009 – though it was accepted that maintenance had been carried out in the area whenever concerns were reported.

The large tree fell across the pathway known as the Isabel Trail

Speaking after the hearing council leader Alan White said: "On behalf of Staffordshire County Council I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr Scattergood and apologise unreservedly for the authority’s shortcomings in this case.

"Although it can be no consolation to those affected, the council has fully acknowledged its responsibility and has met its obligations to Mr Scattergood’s family at the earliest opportunity.

"I once presented Mr Scattergood an award for his work helping others and the death in this way of someone you have met is a stark reminder of the responsibilities we carry as a council.

"Following this terrible incident we have reviewed our system of checks and maintenance planning and done all we can to improve it.”

Mr Scattergood was found in a state of cardiac arrest near Eccleshall Road Cemetery by a member of the public at about 6.40am and the emergency services were called, but he died at the scene.

The council closed the footpath for a week while an investigation was launched into the cause of the tree fall.

The fallen oak tree on the Isobel Trail which fell on Neville Scattergood

Following a safety inspection the section of the trail, between The Range store and the town centre was reopened.

At the inquest held in June this year, South Staffordshire Coroner Andrew Haigh recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Mr Scattergood had been married to his wife Diane for 28 years.

Many tributes were paid following his death and an online fundraising page attracted £3,000 in donations towards the cost of his funeral.

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