Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Park fined for safety breaches

Anna Ryder Richardson with her husband Colin MacDougall, who admitted safety breaches

A wildlife park run by TV star Anna Ryder Richardson and her husband has been fined £70,000 for health and safety breaches.

Colin MacDougall, the celebrity interior designer's husband, received a further fine of £4,000 after he admitted to two identical breaches.

At Swansea Crown Court, MacDougall, 46, and Manor House Wildlife Park, west Wales, were ordered to pay a combined £111,000 in fines and costs in relation to the case.

Identical charges against Ryder Richardson were withdrawn last week on the eve of a three-week trial when MacDougall, and the company they jointly run, changed their pleas to guilty.

Gruff Davies-Hughes suffered serious head injuries at the attraction when he was hit by a tree bough when it was blown down in strong winds in August 2010. The three-year-old spent three days fighting for his life in intensive care after being airlifted to Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

His mother Emme Davies-Hughes suffered head injuries and fractures to her leg, pelvis and arm. The mother and son, from Llanelli, were among dozens of people visiting the wallaby enclosure at the time. Earlier, the court heard that the guilty pleas were accepted on the basis that there was no causal link to the incident.

Judge Paul Thomas was scathing in his condemnation of MacDougall's attitude after the incident. He said a refusal to close the attraction had seen Pembrokeshire County Council act to order it closed on safety grounds.

But the judge questioned why MacDougall failed to act on surveys from an expert who advised action on a number of trees and warned that risk assessments were needed if new areas were opened to the public. He said he believed MacDougall was "shopping around to try to save money".

Earlier in the hearing, the court was told that Ryder Richardson had sunk more than £1 million of her own cash into the wildlife park and that she and her family largely lived in a wooden cabin within the park's sprawling grounds.

The sentence was welcomed by Pembrokeshire County Council. "The sentences reflect the fact that Manor House Wildlife Park and Colin MacDougall failed, over a number of years, to manage the risk posed to the paying public and employees at the park," it stated. "Fundamental health and safety requirements were breached in that there was a failure to assess and actively manage the tree population to ensure the park was safe."

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