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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Company boss cleared of safety breach at Kendal Calling festival

The boss of a company hired to oversee health and safety arrangements at the Kendal Calling music festival has been cleared of failing to warn about the dangers of an 11,000 volt overhead cable in the camping field.

Kendal Calling photo
Chase & Status on the main stage at Kendal Calling

Related: Kendal Calling organisers cut corners on safety, court trial told

Jason ‘Jake’ Piper and his company Piper Event Services Ltd were accused of health and safety breaches after 46-year-old crane driver Donald Berry suffered catastrophic brain damage when he hit the cable while lifting a portable building into position in the run-up to the festival near Penrith in 2010.

Mr Berry, who lives in Radcliffe, near Bury in Greater Manchester, has been left immobile and unable to communicate.

He needs 24-hour care at a neuro-rehabilitation centre which costs £464 a day – almost £170,000 a year.

Mr Piper and his Herefordshire-based company, of which he is managing director, had denied failing to ensure the safety of people working at the festival at Lowther Park.

And yesterday, after a seven-day trial, the jury at Carlisle Crown Court found both him and his company not guilty.

Nigel Lawrence, prosecuting on behalf of Eden Council, said the cable running across the field, seven and a half metres above the ground, was such “a serious and obvious risk” even “an amateur” should have spotted it, never mind a professional health and safety specialist.

He said that although Piper Event Services had been hired as the health and safety professionals the festival organisers needed to act as the “single point of contact for safety issues” they had failed to give any warnings about the overhead cable Mr Berry struck.

“It was an obvious potential hazard – a most obvious and most basic hazard,” he said.

Mr Lawrence said “even the shortest perusal” of a Health and Safety Executive leaflet would have shown how dangerous a cable in such a position was.

The only safe course would have been to turn off the power until the festival was over, he said.

“But nothing was done – the cable was left live,” he said. “Deadening the line was the most obvious solution if anybody had been bothered to think about it in the first place. But nobody spotted the most obvious potential problems.”

But Mr Piper said that, because the festival organisers had been trying to save money by cutting corners, he had never actually been engaged to advise on all aspects of safety at the site and had not been shown the camping field.

Julian Goose QC, defending, said the Kendal Calling promoters had given the company only “limited instructions” because they wanted to save the expense of paying for a comprehensive health and safety plan.

And, he said, it was only after Mr Berry’s accident that Kendal Calling Ltd did “everything they could to try to push the blame away” by falsely claiming that Mr Piper and his company were responsible.

He said that the promoters had in fact “diverted” Mr Piper’s attention away from the camping field because they did not want him to spot the high-voltage cable.

“They knew that if they were told that, because of that cable, they could not use the field for camping they would not be able to expand the event as they wanted to do and they would not have made such huge profits,” he said.

“That is why they kept silent about it. That is why they never told Mr Piper about the cable.”

Kendal Calling Ltd pleaded guilty at an earlier stage to exposing an employee to risk by failing to discharge its duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act and will be sentenced later, probably in early April.

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