Farmer fined over killer cows

The Limousin herd

A farmer has been fined £30,000 after a herd of cows he knew to be dangerous trampled and killed a rambler.

Mike Porter, 66, and his brother John were walking their dogs, which were on leads, on a public footpath in a field where cows with calves were grazing at Turleigh, near Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire.

The cows, which belonged to local farmer Brian Godwin, were Limousin cross-breeds and particularly aggressive. Indeed, Godwin's insurers had already been forced to pay out over £200,000 for three previous attacks in which four people were seriously injured.

Afterwards, the farmer was warned by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and told to install electric fencing and signs warning of cows with calves - but failed to do so.

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When the cattle attacked again in 2013, Mike Porter, from Edinburgh, suffered fatal internal bleeding from crush injuries. His 73-year-old brother John, who lives near Bath, suffered multiple rib fractures and a punctured lung, but survived.

Godwin has now pleaded guilty at Swindon Crown Court to a breach of his general duty of controlling his livestock, and has been given a 12 month prison sentence suspended for two years. He's also been ordered to pay costs of £30,000.

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"Farmers and landowners have a legal duty to assess the risks from livestock to people using any rights of way on their land, and to take all reasonable precautions," says HSE inspector Dawn Lawrence.

"Wherever possible, farmers should avoid keeping cows with calves in fields with public footpaths. If that is impossible, and they need to keep cattle and walkers apart, temporary fencing is easy and cheap to provide."

Between April 2000 and March 2015, 18 members of the public were killed by cattle, with most incidents involving cows with calves, and dogs.

In this case, the court heard, the cattle were particularly aggressive as Limousins are a beef breed, and less used to people than dairy cows.

Mike Porter

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Professor Porter's partner, Adrienne Sillar, has already been awarded what's believed to be a six-figure sum in the civil courts.

"While nothing will bring Mike back to us, we hope that this important case can serve to highlight the issues associated with the safety of the public using rights of way when livestock are present," she says.

"Mike's death was avoidable, and our hope is that no-one else should run the risk of injury or death when enjoying the countryside responsibly."

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