Hampshire Activity Centre Guilty Over Rope Bridge Accident

17 October 2017, 13:05

Portsmouth Crown Court

A Hampshire activity centre's been found guilty of breaking health and safety rules, after an 11-year-old was left hanging by her neck.

She got tangled in a rope bridge at Fairthorne Manor near Botley in 2012, and did recover.

YMCA Fairthorne Group says it's 'disappointed with the verdict' - it'll be sentenced in November.

In July 2012 an 11-year-old girl was rendered unconscious when her neck became entangled in the safety equipment after falling from the Burma rope bridge. She was left suspended by the safety equipment until an emergency rescue was initiated which involved her being cut free and dropped into the water below. She was then flown by air ambulance to hospital where she was put into an induced coma. Thankfully, she made a full recovery.

The incident was investigated by Winchester City Council Environmental Health Officers. A prosecution was brought against the YMCA Fairthorne Group under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to ensure the safety of those in its care and also under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 for failing to ensure their employees had received adequate health and safety training.

The jury at Portsmouth Crown Court delivered a verdict of guilty against YMCA Fairthorne Group for failing to deliver on its general duty to protect the health and safety to persons other than their employees, but was unable to reach a verdict on whether they had or had not provided adequate training for employees.

The matter will return to court on 3 November for sentencing.

Cllr Caroline Horrill, Leader of Winchester City Council said:

"The City Council brings prosecutions when it believes safety failures are of a serious nature and need to be fully considered by the courts. Whilst many young people enjoy the life enriching experience of taking part in a variety of outdoor activities such as those at Fairthorne Manor, the public needs to be confident that a proper health and safety regime is in place.

"The verdict sends a clear message that the provision of adequate safety measures needs to be a high priority and that the City Council will take appropriate action to ensure employee and public safety."

YMCA Fairthorne Group:

'In July 2012 a child visiting with a group was involved in an incident on the ‘Burma Bridge’ activity and was admitted to hospital. The actions of the YMCA staff and the attending emergency services resulted in a successful rescue and the subsequent full recovery of the child.

'Winchester City Council launched a prosecution of the YMCA Fairthorne Group on health and safety grounds, which has been heard at Portsmouth Crown Court. The jury found YMCA Fairthorne Group guilty on one count, but were unable to reach a verdict on a second count.

'We are naturally disappointed with the verdict on an incident from over 5 years ago; as a leading children and young person’s charity we are devastated that a child was involved in this unfortunate isolated incident. However, we take some comfort in the fact that she made a full recovery and would like to wish her well for the future.

'Outdoor centres like Fairthorne Manor continue to be rewarding and exciting places for young people and the entire community to visit and we take the issue of safety extremely seriously. All our activities reach national safety standards; where appropriate external approved assessors evaluate our staff members and we deliver activities in line with nationally agreed guidelines. Fairthorne Manor is a Hampshire Outdoor Education and AALA approved centre.

'YMCA Fairthorne Group delivers a valuable service to thousands of children and young people every year. Children’s safety and wellbeing are of paramount importance to us and we are committed to adding value to young lives by providing experiences that challenge, enable and develop the individual in a safe and caring environment.

'We are unable to make further comment at this time.'