… on Tuesday a judge told the jury to find Counsell, 51, not guilty after ruling the case against him was based on hindsight and there was no way he could have anticipated the conditions that were created that night.That this case ever reached a court beggars belief.
The defendant, who has had his business disrupted and his reputation trashed, is understandably aggrieved:
"The prosecution case against me was based on the suggestion that I should have recognised the risk of something occurring which has never been shown to have happened before, which probably did not happen, and risk of which was not recognised by anyone else."But wait, you say! ‘Not recognised by anyone else’?
Yes. Indeed so.
"The current authoritative guidance from the Health and Safety Executive contains no reference to any risk posed by firework smoke, whether on its own or in combination with fog.
"The same applies to guidance produced by other official bodies and indeed current guidance provided by the Taunton Deane Borough Council.
"The prosecution experts spent two years investigating the possible causes of the crash, including the interaction between firework smoke and fog. There were unable to find a single example of a case in which firework smoke had previously been shown to pose a danger. "And yet, incredibly, this didn’t stop the prosecution…
Peter Blair QC, prosecuting, told the jury: "Essentially, the prosecution say they experienced a loss of visibility, generated, we say, by a plume of smoke created by Mr Counsell from his firework display which had built up.
"It was dispersed because of the lack of wind mixed with the humid air and drifted in the direction of the motorway.
"We say people were exposed to an appreciable risk to their personal safety that night as a consequence of the way Mr Counsell prepared for and then went about his business.
"We say that ensuring the safety of people using that motorway needed particular care if you were going to undertake a big firework display involving the use of a substantial volume of these hazardous explosives, which generated a lot of smoke.
"Smoke can have an appreciable effect on reducing visibility - that should be obvious. It didn't take long from the build-up of smoke to the dramatic loss of visibility.
"We say if he had adequately undertaken his health and safety properly, some or all of the consequences which unfolded on November 4 may have been avoided."I can only assume Peter Blair QC doesn’t possess a dictionary, and so is unaware of the meaning of the word ‘appreciable’. Or ‘obvious’.
Naturally, everyone involved in this is in CYA mode:
Barry Hughes, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS South West, said: “This was an extremely complex case and we worked closely with Taunton Deane Borough Council and sought evidence from experts and many eye witnesses before making the decision to charge Geoffrey Counsell with breaching the Health and Safety Act.
“The burden falls on us to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge was not satisfied that the evidence available passed this high threshold and has directed the jury to acquit Mr Counsell. We accept this decision.
“Over the last few weeks the jury has heard from many of those present on the night of the incident. I would like to thank them for coming forward to give evidence as I know how hard it must have been to relive the events of that night.
“I would also like to thank Avon and Somerset police, who conducted a thorough and detailed investigation. “Our thoughts today are with all those involved in and affected by this tragic incident.”Are they with poor Mr Counsell?
A statement released by Taunton Deane Council just now reads as follows: The acquittal of Geoffrey Counsell, on the direction of the Hon Mr Justice Simon at his trial at Bristol Crown Court, marks the end of a lengthy investigation by Avon and Somerset Police and Taunton Deane Borough Council.
After the decision, Leader of the Council, Cllr John Williams, said: “I hope that the end of Crown Court proceedings brings some closure for the families, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives or suffered injury in the terrible events on November 4 2011.
“The Council is now seeking to work closely with the relevant authorities to see if the current guidance regarding large fireworks displays, such as the one at Taunton Rugby Club, is appropriate. We also pledge our support for any changes that may be deemed necessary.
“Our primary concern is to minimise the risks of this type of unimaginable incident happening again.
“On behalf of the Council, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the families of the bereaved and the families and friends of all those affected by these terrible events. ”Does that include poor Mr Counsell?
Also justice system intransigence.