North Lancs hay bale death case sentence

A STABLE owner has been given a suspended jail term after a woman was killed by a falling hay bale.

Riding enthusiast Charlotte Conroy-Taylor, 45, was crushed under a one-ton bale after it fell from a badly stored stack at Beaumont Grange Farm Equitation Centre, Slyne, in May 2011, Preston Crown Court heard.

The stable owner Carol Hill, a leading member of the Lancaster and District Pony Club, admitted a charge of failing to ensure the safety of persons not in her employment and was given an eight-month suspended jail sentence, and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. She must also pay £10,000 in prosecution costs.

Preston Crown Court heard how hay was provided at the stables from a large trough – but this was frequently left empty.

Instead it had become common practice for customers to go to the hay stack, which was five bales high, cut open the black plastic wrapping on the bottom bale, and take hay from there for their horses.

As more hay was taken, it lead to the stack becoming dangerously unstable, the court heard.

The tragic accident happened on May 31, 2011 as Mrs Conroy-Taylor prepared the stable used by her daughter Zara’s horse, Flash, as the 12-year-old rode the animal.

The court heard Mrs Hill was aware of the practice of taking hay from the bottom bale, but failed to recognise the dangers – with tragic consequences.

Her husband Stephen Hill, 55, admitted the same charge relating to another hay stack, not involved in the fatal accident, on a different part of the farm.

He received a £2,500 fine and was ordered to pay the same amount in prosecution costs.

Judge Anthony Russell QC said: “On the 31st of May, 2011 Charlotte Louise Conroy-Taylor lost her life at the age of 45 in shocking circumstances, witnessed by her 12-year-old daughter.

“The family’s loss can’t be under-estimated.”

Speaking of Carol Hill he said: “Having known hay was being taken from the bottom stack she failed to recognise it represented a risk.”

He added that it was “a tragically wrong assessment.”

Speaking outside the court, Mrs Conroy-Taylor’s parents Jim, 72, and Lynette Conroy-Taylor, 71, of Brookhouse, Lancaster, who are guardian to 14-year-old Zara, said: “We think the sentence was appropriate, and sends the right message to owners of all other equitation centres to take full responsibility for the safety of their clients.

“For us to think of not seeing our daughter ever again and Zara not having her mum for the rest of her life leaves us speechless.”

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