Highlands & Islands

Crofter loses claim against Highland Council for trip

Iain Pocock in BBC documentary Power to the Pococks Image copyright Timeline/BBC
Image caption Iain Pocock in BBC documentary Power to the Pococks

A crofter has lost a damages claim he had raised against Highland Council after he tripped on a paving slab.

Iain Pocock, who lives near Tomich in the Highlands, caught a foot on a raised slab and fell during a visit to Inverness on 9 February 2012.

Mr Pocock, who appeared in a BBC documentary in 2013, sought £500,000 in compensation for an injury to his leg.

A judge said Mr Pocock had failed to establish that the slab had been at a height that required it to be fixed.

Mr Pocock said the trip caused injury to a knee and this impacted on his ability to carry out tasks at his croft.

He raised an action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh against Highland Council.

The local authority, which denied liability, said that during 2012 and the following year Mr Pocock and his family were the subject of the documentary Power to the Pococks: A year in the life of a crofting family.

In its defences to the action, the council said: "The pursuer's wife in particular, during the documentary, discusses the fact that they rely on own generator for power and that they cannot be linked to the National Grid other than at significant expense to their family.

"There is reference to them being quoted the sum of up to £230,000 for them to be connected and the pursuer's wife says they do not have that money unless they 'win the lottery'."

In pain

During the court action parts of the documentary were played to Mr Pocock.

Judge Lord Clark said: "Excerpts of the documentary were played which showed the pursuer doing such things as using an axe and a chainsaw to cut firewood, carrying out animal husbandry tasks, carrying out maintenance of a wind turbine by climbing up a metal scaffold and in doing so being able to place weight on his left leg, driving a tractor, kneeling while milking, carrying a stockpot and sliding on a sheet of ice, spinning round a pole in a barn and working on a diesel generator."

The judge said: "The pursuer explained that he was not filmed during periods when the knee was bad and that when he was carrying out some of the activities that had been filmed he was focused and aware of what he was doing, and was bracing his leg to avoid unexpected injury."

Documentary director Stephen Bennett explained to the court that he would not switch on the camera and begin filming when Mr Pocock said he was in pain.

Lord Clark said in his newly issued judgement issued Mr Pocock, his wife and other relatives struck him as being honest witnesses and he had no hesitation in accepting them as credible and reliable.

The judge said: "It may be the case that the pursuer's evidence to some degree over-emphasised the effects of the accident and that the BBC documentary supported the view that his injuries were not quite so severe as he had stated, but I regard any difference as being largely immaterial.

"In relation to the documentary, I accept the evidence from the pursuer and Mr Bennett to the effect that there were points in time when filming could not take place because of the pursuer's knee injury."

Regularly inspected

The judge said that in light of Mr Pocock's testimony of symptoms of the knee locking during 2012 and supporting evidence he concluded he had suffered a medial meniscal tear in the accident.

In the action it was contended that there was a duty to repair a paving defect with a height difference greater than 20mm within seven days or at most within 21 days.

The location of the accident in Baron Taylor Street was known to be prone to problems and was regularly inspected.

Lord Clark said he had concluded that Mr Pocock had failed to establish the key factual basis of his case - that the defect at of the date of its identification involved a height difference greater than 20mm.

The judge added that Mr Pocock had not established that a roads authority of ordinary competence applying reasonable care would have taken the steps identified in his claim to correct the defect.

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