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Fireworks Contractor Cleared Over Motorway Crash

December 10, 2013
Health and Safety

Judges at Bristol Crown Court have cleared fireworks contractor Geoffrey Counsell of a single charge under Sections 3(2) & 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 relating to one of Britain?s worst motorway pile-ups, in which seven people died and 51 were injured.

The incident on the M5 in Taunton happened in November 2011 when the motorway was engulfed by fog. Mr Counsell, who pleaded not guilty to the charge, was running a firework display which attracted 1,000 spectators to Taunton Rugby Club just 200 yards from the hard shoulder. The Crown Prosecution Service alleged that drivers were exposed to appreciable risk to their personal safety as a result of smog created by the display, which involved the firing of over 1500 individual shots.

Mr Counsell, who runs Firestorm Pyrotechnics, was originally charged with seven counts of manslaughter, but these charges were dropped earlier this year. After directing the jury of eight men and four women to acquit the defendant, Judge Mr Justice Simon said in his verdict, ?In my view, the prosecution case is heavily weighted with hindsight. I have therefore concluded that the evidence is such that the jury cannot continue in these circumstances and it is my duty to stop the trial and order an acquittal.? The verdict brings to a close a lengthy investigation by Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Taunton Deane Borough Council.

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