Farmer avoids jail after man killed and wife paralysed in trampling attack by cattle

Farmer avoids jail after man killed and wife paralysed in trampling attack by cattle

A FARMER has avoided an immediate spell behind bars after his cattle trampled a man to death and left his wife paralysed.

Martin Howard Mitchell was given a six-month custodial sentence, which was suspended for 12 months following the incident on a farm in Netherton, Wakefield.

Michael Holmes, 57, had been walking on a public footpath with his wife Teresa and their dogs on September 29, 2020 when they entered a field containing cows and calves on Hollinghurst farm.

The farmer had made no attempts to segregate the cows and calves from the footpath and the couple were attacked and trampled by the cattle.

Mr Holmes suffered fatal injuries and died at the scene while his wife sustained life changing injuries that have left her confined to a wheelchair as well as requiring extensive rehabilitation therapy and major adaptations to her home.

Their two dogs, still attached to their leads, had managed to escape and were later found by one of the couple’s neighbours.

Teresa and Michael Holmes

In a victim personal statement, Mrs Holmes said having to cope with the two traumas of losing her husband and suffering life changing injuries “has been very difficult”.

“I sustained a spinal cord injury which left me paralysed from the waist down,” she said.

“I now have to use a wheelchair. This has transformed my life beyond anything I could ever imagine.

“The course of my life, and my late husband’s, has been thrown into great turmoil as a result of the farmer’s negligence.”

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Mr Mitchell had failed to ensure that the risks to members of the public were controlled, including that, where possible, cows with calves were suitably segregated from the public footpath.

Cows are known to be protective of their calves and unpredictable.

Mr Mitchell, of Netherton, Wakefield, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

In addition to his suspended sentence he was also ordered to pay a fine and make a contribution towards costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Sally Gay commented: “Large animals can be a risk to people. 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.”

She added: “This tragic incident could easily have been avoided if basic precautions had been taken by the farmer.

“Readily available HSE guidance states that, 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.”