Fireman admits causing death with sirens

A fireman has admitted causing the death of a farmer who was crushed to death by his herd of cows after they were startled by fire engine sirens.

Julian Lawford pleaded guilty at Exeter Crown Court to a charge of causing the death of Harold Lee by careless driving.

Mr Lee, 75, was trampled to death by his cows as he walked them along a country road near his home in Burtle, Somerset, in August last year.

Lawford, 49, of Boundary Way, Glastonbury, Somerset, was due to stand trial accused of manslaughter by gross negligence but admitted the lesser charge, which was accepted by the prosecution.

Lawford pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and causing death by dangerous driving, but admitted the lesser charge.

Richard Smith QC, defending, told the court: "Such a plea reflects that he drove his fire engine forward with its lights flashing with the herd in front of him, which caused them to act as they did, causing the death.

"This plea would be acceptable to the Crown Prosecution Service."

The incident happened on a B-road near Burtle, on the Somerset levels between Glastonbury and Burnham-on-Sea, at about 3.20pm on August 11 last year.

Mr Lee was moving a herd of 100 dairy cows from a field towards their milking parlour at Robins Farm when the incident occurred.

He was airlifted to Royal United Hospital in Bath, with serious head and chest injuries, before being transferred to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, where he died six days later.

Members of Mr Lee's family were in court to see Lawford plead guilty.

Sentence was adjourned until December 20 for the preperation of pre-sentence reports.

Mr Justice Roderick Evans released Lawford on conditional bail.

He told him: "This case will be adjourned for the preperation of a report upon you and that report will be ready by Monday.

"You have heard the indication that I have given, that I will not be sending you to prison immediately, subject to the other sentence options remaining open."