1st July 2019
Scarlett Milligan, instructed by Joseph Speed of Slater and Gordon LLP, represented the family of Christopher Leslie Bluck in a 5 day inquest, which concluded on 28 June 2019. Christopher tragically died when his motorcycle collided with a stray cow on a rural A-Road in North Devon. Three members of the public had reported the stray cows to the police earlier in the evening, but they were not located, and no warnings were given to road users.
Lydia Brown, HM Assistant Coroner for Exeter and Greater Devon, held that Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights applied to the inquest, as there was reason to believe the state had possibly breached its obligations to protect the right to life. In ruling that the police were aware of an immediate risk to life, she held that Devon and Cornwall Police did not need to be aware of a risk to a specific individual, but of the risk to the persons travelling on the relevant stretch of road.
The jury returned a short form conclusion of ‘accidental death’. They found that the fencing containing the cows was “inadequate”. They also found that information from the second call to the police “was not passed to the officers on scene” and that, following the third call (approximately an hour before Chris’ death), “officers at the scene considerably reduced the search time to around three minutes. There was an opportunity to conduct a more detailed search and put out “Police Slow” warning signs, all of which would have reduced the risk of an incident.”
Devon and Cornwall Police were represented by Matthew Holdcroft of Serjeants’ Inn Chambers, and the farmer was represented by Jeremy Asher of Ashfords LLP.