Trial against firework display organiser accused over M5 deaths delayed

Crash in November 2011 involved 34 vehicles

The trial of the organiser of a fireworks display held on the night of a fatal pile-up on the M5 will begin on Monday, a court heard.

Geoffrey Counsell, 51, is charged with failing to ensure the safety of others, contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Seven people died in the crash, which involved 34 vehicles.

Anthony and Pamela Adams, Maggie and Michael Barton, Malcolm Beacham, Terry Brice and Kye Thomas were killed in the incident on November 4, 2011.

More than 50 other people were injured.

Counsell, of Ashill in Somerset, was operating a fireworks display in a field close to the motorway, at Taunton Rugby Club, at the time.

He pleaded not guilty to breaching health and safety regulations and was due to stand trial this morning at Bristol Crown Court.

But Mr Justice Simon told the court that the case would not open until Monday, with legal discussions expected to last for the rest of the week.

A jury panel will be selected from 43 potential jurors, who were addressed by the judge this morning.

Mr Justice Simon said: "This case is a health and safety prosecution arising out of a fireworks display on the 4th of November 2011 at Taunton Rugby Club and a series of collisions that took place on the northbound carriageway of the M5 motorway, just north of junction 25.

"This is a very serious matter and you must treat it very seriously."

The charge alleges Counsell failed to ensure he operated the firework display so as to ensure, as far as was reasonably practicable, that others who might be affected were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

The trial, expected to last up to six weeks, will be prosecuted by Peter Blair QC and Anna Vigars. Counsell is represented by Adrian Darbishire QC and Simon Antrobus.

Mr Justice Simon warned the potential jurors the case could last up to six weeks.

"This trial is scheduled to last until shortly before Christmas," he told them.

"Jury service is the only duty required of citizens now. It is an important public duty."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?