A UK landowner has been fined £15,000 after members of the public were “seriously injured” by cattle while walking along footpaths on his estate.
Charles Hobhouse pleaded guilty to health and safety failings at his Monkton Farleigh Estate in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire.
It follows two separate incidents in which members of the public were attacked by cows in the summer of 2021.
Hobhouse was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court yesterday (Thursday, June 8) for the breaching of two counts of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
He was ordered to pay costs of £8,000 as well as the fine of £15,000.
The first incident occurred in June of 2021 when Michael Booley was walking his dogs with his wife and their friend. While walking along a path on Hobhouse’s land, the trio were approached and attacked by several cows.
Joanne Booley suffered serious injuries as a result, including a fractured shoulder and broken ribs. Her husband described the attack as “horrendous”.
He said: “I witnessed my wife being relentlessly stamped on and head butted by the cows and at one stage she was not responding.
“I also witnessed my friend desperately trying to find cover behind a tree and fighting the attacking cows with her rucksack as they attacked her from both sides. I still have nightmares about it.”
A HSE investigation concluded that Hobhouse failed to ensure the risks to members of the pubic were controlled including that cattle and calves were suitably segregated from the public footpath.
‘I was trampled, pushed and head butted’
The second incident occurred in August of the same summer, when James Johnson was out for an early-morning run with his dog along the same footpath.
Johnson, aged 42, was attacked by cattle shortly after 6.00am and sustained “significant injuries”, including concussion, dislocated shoulders, broken ribs and broken vertebrae.
He was in hospital for several days. The HSE found that no measures had been taken to segregate the cows from the footpath, despite formal orders to Hobhouse to implement controls to prevent similar incidents after the attack in June 2021.
Johnson said: “I remember the incident clearly. There were two groups of cows, one of which was running fast towards me and the other coming from a different direction.
“When I realised what was happening I let the dog go and started to run. The cattle ran into me and knocked me onto the ground, where I was trampled, pushed and head butted.
“Every time I attempted to get back up, they pushed me back down.
“Near the end, when I was exhausted and hurt, I fell to the ground one more time and remember thinking ‘this is it – this is where I die’.”
HSE inspector Leo Diez said large animals can be a risk to people and “even a gentle knock from a cow can result in injury”.
“Seemingly docile cattle can pose a risk to walkers when they are under stress or feel threatened and can exhibit instinctive maternal or aggressive behaviour,” he said.
“Where possible cows with calves should not be grazed in fields where there is a public right of way. Where this is not possible they should be segregated from the footpath by appropriate fencing where it is reasonable to do so,” he added.