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Council prosecuted for failing to inspect tree on a public footpath

20 Jan 2022 | Technical News

During December 2021 Staffordshire County Council were prosecuted for failing to inspect and maintain a tree on a public footpath, following the death of a member of the public.  A man walking his dog on a public footpath was struck and killed by a part of the oak tree.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive revealed the mature oak tree had defects from which it was deemed foreseeable that the tree was likely to fall and cause injury. 

Whilst local authorities are legally required to suitably and sufficiently manage the risks and hazards posed by the trees within their responsibility, the trees on this particular footpath had been omitted from inspection regimes.

An owner of land on which trees stand has responsibilities under both civil and criminal law and is liable to pay damages in the event of a breach of these duties.  Several documents are available for free, which explain the responsibilities of landowners and what action they should take to ensure a balance is struck between managing risk whilst ensuring society continue to enjoy the benefits of trees.  

Please see the Further reading section for links to the documents:

Health and Safety Executive Press Release
National Tree Safety Group: Common sense risk management of trees
Forest Research: Hazards from trees


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