Fireman admits causing death of farmer trampled by cows

Image caption,
Mr Lee was killed when the cows he was herding stampeded

A fireman has admitted causing the death of a farmer who was crushed by his herd of cows after they were startled by fire engine sirens.

Julian Lawford pleaded guilty at Exeter Crown Court to causing the death of Harold Lee by careless driving.

Mr Lee, 75, was trampled to death as he walked the cows along a country road near his home in Burtle, Somerset, in August last year.

Lawford, 49, from Glastonbury, had been due to stand trial.

The fireman, who lives in Boundary Way, pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and causing death by dangerous driving, but admitted the lesser charge which was accepted by the prosecution.

Richard Smith QC, defending, told the court: "Such a plea reflects that he drove his fire engine forward with its lights flashing with the herd in front of him, which caused them to act as they did, causing the death.

"This plea would be acceptable to the Crown Prosecution Service."

Fireman suspended

The incident happened on a B-road near Burtle, on the Somerset levels between Glastonbury and Burnham-on-Sea, at about 1520 BST on 11 August last year.

Mr Lee had been moving a herd of 100 dairy cows from a field towards their milking parlour at Robins Farm.

He was airlifted to Royal United Hospital in Bath with serious head and chest injuries, before being transferred to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, where he died six days later.

The judge, Mr Justice Roderick Evans, adjourned the case until Monday, when Lawford will be sentenced.

He told the fireman he was not considering an immediate custodial sentence and released him on conditional bail.

A spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said Lawford remained under suspension.

The spokesman said: "He is due to be sentenced on 20 December and therefore it would be inappropriate for the service to comment until those court proceedings are concluded.

"The thoughts of the service remain with Mr Lee's family at this difficult time."

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