Somerset

Manslaughter charges dropped in M5 crash case

  • 15 January 2013
  • From the section Somerset
M5 crash scene
Image caption Seven people died and 51 were injured in the pile-up involving 34 vehicles

Manslaughter charges have been dropped against the organiser of a fireworks display held on the night of a crash on the M5 in which seven people died.

Geoffrey Counsell, 50 and from Somerset, was arrested after the crash, which involved 34 vehicles and left 51 people injured, in November 2011.

Mr Counsell will now face one charge, under health and safety laws, of failing to ensure the safety of others.

That case will be heard at a later date, Bristol Crown Court heard.

The Crown Prosecution Service authorised Avon and Somerset Police to charge Geoffrey Counsell with manslaughter in October 2012.

Chief crown prosecutor, Barry Hughes said all CPS cases are kept under "constant review".

He said: "During this review process, in December we sought further advice from a leading expert on the law of negligence and additional information was also provided by expert witnesses and police investigators.

'Insufficient evidence'

"Based on this additional information and advice, it has been decided that there is insufficient evidence to continue with a prosecution for manslaughter."

The fireworks display organised by Mr Counsell was taking place at Taunton Rugby Club, which is next to the motorway, when the crash happened.

Lorry drivers Terry Brice, from Patchway, South Gloucestershire, and Kye Thomas, from Gunnislake, Cornwall, died in the crash.

Father and daughter Michael and Maggie Barton, from Windsor, Berkshire; grandparents Anthony and Pamela Adams, from Newport, south Wales; and battle re-enactor Malcolm Beacham, from Woolavington, near Bridgwater, also died.

Speaking after the hearing, the daughter of Anthony and Pamela Adams, Tonia White said the experience had been "very traumatic".

"However we're confident in the justice system and although the CPS have discontinued the charges of manslaughter, we are led to believe there will be health and safety issues to address and are confident the outcome will remain the same," she said.

Terry Brice's parents, Jean Brice and Terry Brice were also disappointed at the manslaughter charge being dropped.

Mrs Brice said: "It's a very sensitive case, but what can we say.

"It won't stop the cruelty and misery that we have to go through for the rest of our days."

Det Sup Mike Courtiour of Avon and Somerset Police described the collision as "one of the worst in living memory" and said the force's investigation was "meticulous and complex".

Mr Counsell was originally charged with the seven counts of manslaughter, on 19 October last year.

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