South Scotland

Galloway rock pool death sparks regulation review call

Laura McDairmant (c) Brian McDairmant
Image caption A sheriff has called for a review in light of Laura McDairmant's death

A sheriff has called for a full review of regulations at activity centres for people aged under 18 after the death of a teenager in southern Scotland.

Laura McDairmant, 15, of Carlisle, died while on holiday in Dumfries and Galloway in July 2006.

She suffered head injuries falling onto rocks in a pool jumping activity.

Sheriff Johanna Johnston said the Health and Safety Executive should undertake a review as soon as possible to tackle any "gaps" in regulations.

The findings were delivered following a fatal accident inquiry at Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court.

The sheriff criticised the management at the Abernethy Trust's Barcaple Outdoor Centre and said she had reached the view that outdoor activities in the period from 2001 until the incident were not adequately managed.

She said the site was unsafe and should not have been used for the activity and that the trust had failed to carry out a proper risk assessment for gorge jumping.

"There was a rock ledge protruding from the pool underneath the jumping point and there was a danger that a participant would fall onto the rock ledge," she said.

"Laura jumped from a height of approximately 9.5m above the surface of the pool, landed on the protruding ledge of rocks and sustained injuries which caused her death."

She also heard that Dumfries and Galloway Council did not know this type of activity was taking place.

"There is no obligation on a provider to advise anyone about the provision of out-of-scope activities," she said.

"As the circumstances at Barcaple in July 2006 demonstrate, this allows for a situation where the licensing authority and the enforcement authority do not know that an activity is being undertaken."

Procedure review

Sheriff Johnston now wants all activities at centres to be licensed without delay and for the HSE to issue clear guidance to local authorities on the extent of their statutory responsibilities for those under the age of 18.

She said she was satisfied the Abernethy Trust had now conducted a review of its procedures in order to avoid any repeat of such an incident.

However, she said there were "gaps" in the regulation scheme which needed to be addressed.

"It is an issue of public concern that other children could be exposed to unacceptable levels of risk by engaging in unsuitable adventure activities, which are also not subject to inspection," she added.

She said the HSE had also indicated it would welcome a review of the whole regulatory system.

'Tragic accident'

The Abernethy Trust said it accepted the "detailed and comprehensive" findings of the inquiry.

"We recognise that there were failures in our lines of communication which contributed to this tragic accident," said a statement on its website.

It said the trust welcomed the findings that it had acted swiftly after the accident and that the sheriff made no recommendations regarding its management and organisation.

The statement added: "The sheriff makes a number of recommendations about the regulation of outdoor centres.

"We have in the past always sought to work closely with the regulatory authorities and it is our desire to continue to do so to ensure that there cannot be a repeat of Laura's tragic accident."

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