M5 Pile-Up: Manslaughter Charges Dropped

Manslaughter charges have been dropped against Geoffrey Counsell after seven people died in a pile-up on the M5 during thick fog.

The 50-year-old was operating a firework display in a field close to the motorway, at Taunton Rugby Club, at the time of the crash on the night of November 4, 2011.

Mr Counsell, who is from Somerset, was charged with seven counts of manslaughter on October 19 last year.

But when he appeared at Bristol Crown Court, he was told the manslaughter charges were being dropped and he would instead face a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act of failing to ensure the safety of others.

The incident, which involved 34 vehicles and left 51 people injured, was described as one of the worst British motorway crashes in memory.

Witnesses afterwards spoke of thick smoke causing visibility problems for motorists.

Anthony and Pamela Adams, Maggie and Michael Barton, Malcolm Beacham, Terry Brice and Kye Thomas all died.

Peter Blair, prosecuting, said they had reviewed the decision following meetings with a range of experts in different disciplines.

“The outcome of the review that took place and developments, including the additional charge of failing to ensure the safety of others under the Health and Safety Act, was the decision that the prosecution will not be pursuing the manslaughter charges,” he said.

Adrian Derbyshire, defending, told the court his client should “never have been charged with manslaughter”.

But he added the prosecution told him it was the right decision at the time and new evidence had come forward that prompted the decision to review the case.

Judge Neil Ford QC said the case would now be marked as a closed file.