Merlin found guilty over Warwick Castle death

Merlin Entertainments has been found guilty on two counts of failing to protect visitors following the death of a man at Warwick Castle in 2007.

The group’s operating arm Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd pleaded not guilty to two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Four years ago, 72-year-old George Frederick Townley fell into the dry moat from the castle’s Bear and Clarence bridge, after stumbling over a 15-inch wall. He later died of his injuries in hospital.

Merlin was accused of failing to take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent or protect visitors from falling and failing to provide a barrier to protect visitors from falling from the bridge.

The company was fined £350,000 plus £145,000 costs to Warwick District Council, who brought the case to court.

‘Tragic death’

In passing sentence, Judge Nigel Godsmark QC said: “This matter arose from the tragic death of George Townley but it is not, however, a case of corporate manslaughter.

“The death was tragic and unfortunate and he seems to have tripped unluckily.

“On my part I believe the risk of the bridge was not mainly to adult pedestrians but to children.

“Many people have crossed the bridge over the years and some were of the ilk of the health and safety experts from whom most of their evidence has been given in hindsight but Merlin had failed in its duty.

“I am of the opinion that Merlin do take their health and safety duties very seriously.

“There appears to be a good health and safety system at the castle and there are regular safety meetings involving all departments.

“The Bear and Clarence bridge constituted something of a blind spot, but that said it was a blind spot that had tragic consequences and had a risk assessment been carried out we would not have that.

“The defendant is an organisation of a substantial financial standing and while I accept the figures required to maintain Warwick Castle are substantial I also accept the sentence must have something of a sting to it.”