£20,000 fine threat over Otley girl hurt by falling pole

First published in Local news Wharfedale Observer: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

An incident in Otley in which a rotting flagpole collapsed and seriously injured a toddler will land Leeds City Council in court next month.

Two-year-old River Webster had to be rushed to hospital after the wooden pole at Otley War Memorial in Bondgate collapsed in March last year.

It fractured her skull and broke her ankle. River, now three, still needs regular check-ups.

The Health and Safety Executive believes the council is to blame, arguing it neglected to maintain the gardens so they were safe for the public.

Shortly after the accident, a whistleblower at Leeds City Council, responsible for maintaining the war memorial garden, claimed the authority had been warned about the flagpole’s condition months before the incident – something the council denied.

The pole has since been replaced and the council launched its own investigation. After a separate inquiry, the HSE decided to prosecute the council and represent-atives have been summoned to appear in court next month, almost a year after the collapse.

They will be accused of failing to ensure the safety of people visiting the gardens and if found guilty could be fined up to £20,000.

A spokesman for the HSE said: “Leeds City Council has been summoned to appear at Leeds Magistrates Court. The council is charged with a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for an alleged failure to maintain the flagpole at Otley Memorial Garden in such a way to ensure that people not in their employment using the garden were not exposed to risk to their safety from the flagpole collapsing.”

Leeds City Council said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on a specific case, particularly where there are ongoing legal proceedings.

“But we are working very closely with the HSE and regard matters of health and safety as of paramount importance.”

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