York Racecourse faces prosecution over Ruby Milnes' death

Charges brought in connection with death of teenage cyclist killed by a lorry while she rode on cycle path in 2008

by Simon_MacMichael   January 16, 2012  

Broken bike (CC licensed image by garryknight, www.flickr.com)

The company that operates York Racecourse faces prosecution at York Magistrates’ Court in February following a decision by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to bring charges against the business over two alleged breaches of health and safety at work legislation in connection with the death, in May 2008, of 17-year-old cyclist Ruby Milnes.

The teenager was killed by a lorry being driven on an access road to the racecourse that cut across the Sustrans-maintained York-Selby cycle path as she returned from York College to her home in Bishophill.

As previously reported on road.cc, in May last year the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to press potential charges of corporate manslaughter against York Racecourse Knavesmire LLP, operators of the racecourse, because it believed there was no realistic prospect of securing a conviction.

It did, however, pass its files to the HSE to see if there were grounds for a prosecution to be brought under legislation falling within that body’s competence, resulting in the decision to bring charges on two counts, reports the York Press.

Both charges relate to alleged breaches of, respectively, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999,

Those pieces of legislation are primarily designed to ensure the safety of employees while engaged in their employment, but also extend to persons not employed by the business who may be affected by its conduct, in this case cyclists using the path running across the property.

A spokesman for York Racecourse acknowledged that it had been made aware of the HSE’s decision to prosecute.

“Our first thoughts remain for the family and friends of Ruby Milnes,” he told the York Press. “We offer them our sincere condolences.

“The racecourse has fully co-operated with the various investigations into the sad events of that afternoon and will continue to do so.”

The spokesman said that the business had systems in place to ensure that it complied with its obligations under health and safety legislation.

“As well as being a key task for all members of the team, the course retains an expert in this field who guides the team through the principles of the legislation, supports the provision of important documentation, and helps assess over 5,000 individual risks, whilst creating a health and safety aware culture,” he explained.

“York Racecourse has a good relationship with the relevant authorities and has faced no previous such proceedings.

“As the issues are now to be set before a court, we do not believe it is appropriate to make any further comment at this time,” he concluded.

Reacting to the news, Ruby’s parents, Al and Dave Milnes, commented: “We’re pleased that the HSE are taking an interest in what happened to Ruby.

“For us, there’s no outcome that could give us our daughter back but we hope that this prosecution results in cycle paths being made safe for cyclists everywhere in the country.”

4 user comments

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Does anyone know why the HSE don't investigate deaths on the public road which involve commercial vehicles?

posted by tarquin_foxglove [77 posts]
17th January 2012 - 0:13

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Don't have time to summarise this right now but it should answer a lot of your question:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/foi/internalops/fod/om/2009/02.htm

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7820 posts]
17th January 2012 - 0:26

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HSE Section 3 offences (injury to non employees/duty of care to) prosecuted for events not on the public highway, but if HSE position of the road as a workplace is followed to its logical conclusion there may be cases that could be raised - for example the kitchen fitter jailed for 5 years following driving his van in to a head on collision with another car killing one occupant and putting the other in a wheelchair, would have been driving to a schedule set by an employer (in this instance driving from Manchester to Glasgow, doing a day's work and then coming back via Dumfries to attend another job. Quite clearly the employer failed in delivering a duty of car to the employee and the public by setting a schedule which would have been illegal for a professional driver of an LGV or PCV which is required to record drivers hours with a tachograph and have prescribed limits to driving working and rest breaks. But teh driver was the fall guy here.

There are some parts of the road where you will have an issue that should get HSE involved namely where there are rails in the road. Railway level crossings between the stop lines are pat of the railway. If you fall off and hurt yourself then that is a dangerous occurrence and should raise a RIDDOR report. Likewise the road to 18" on either side of the tram lines is managed by the tramway.

Those in N Yorkshire might know the level crossing at Aiskew which in February 2007 was subject to an HSE 28 day improvement notice, following the death of a cyclist brought down by a seriously defective crossing surface. Two other cyclists suffered broken bones at the site before the current solution was delivered but it too is deteriorating.

On a private site there may well be a low speed limit for vehicle movements, and a requirement for an attendant escort where space is restricted. On a construction site each operation should have a risk assessment and then a metod statement to spell out how the task should be safely carried out. it beggars belief that with construction trucks the greatest cause of cyclist deaths, thier movements on a site are rigorously managed but as soon as they pass out the gates no formal obligation assess the risks and to plan a safe driving route exists.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [468 posts]
17th January 2012 - 1:22

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York Racecourse are bang to rights. This appears to be a clear and undeniable breach of duty (HASAW act Section 3)The HSE do loose but not very often!

posted by Ting [51 posts]
17th January 2012 - 22:47

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