Slyne hay bale tragedy: Stable owner given suspended jail sentence

Charlotte Conroy-Taylor
Charlotte Conroy-Taylor

A stable owner has been given a suspended prison sentence after a woman was killed by a falling hay bale.

Charlotte Conroy-Taylor, 45, was killed after a one-ton bale from a dangerously-stored stack fell onto her at Beaumont Grange Farm Equitation Centre, Slyne, in May 2011.

Beaumont Grange Farm where the tragic accident happened.

Beaumont Grange Farm where the tragic accident happened.

In October, the owners of the centre, husband and wife Carol Hill, 54, and Stephen Hill, 55, of Coastal Road, Bolton-le-Sands, pleaded guilty to one health and safety charge each.

At Preston Crown Court yesterday, Mrs Hill was given an eight-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 200 hours of voluntary work.

She must also pay prosecution costs of £10,000.

Her husband was sentenced to a £2,500 fine and ordered to pay the same amount in prosecution costs in relation to another hay stack, not involved in the fatal accident, on a different part of the farm.

The accident happened on May 31, 2011 as Mrs Conroy-Taylor helped her daughter Zara, then aged 12, tend to her pony, Flash.

Mrs Conroy-Taylor, who worked in the criminal justice service for Lancashire County Council, was rushed to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary with multiple injuries where she died.

An inquest into her death last year heard the hay stack was “precariously balanced” as hay was removed from lower bales, causing the pile to become unstable.

Lancaster City Council launched a prosecution after the hearing.

Coun Karen Leytham, cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health, said: “Mrs Conroy-Taylor’s death is a tragic reminder of what can happen if the proper precautions are not put in place and I hope other business owners sit up and take note.

“It is vital that health and safety risks are identified and dealt with properly and our message to other businesses is while there are plenty of public myths about health and safety, employers and other legal duty holders need to know their obligations and know how to be sure they have fulfilled them.

“Lancaster City Council will not hesitate to prosecute business owners when appropriate for failing to ensure that sufficient measures are put in place to protect health and safety on their premises.”

Mrs Conroy-Taylor’s parents Jim and Lynette Conroy-Taylor, both 71, of Brookhouse, Lancaster, who now look after 14-year-old Zara, previously said: “Charlotte’s death has caused us much grief and heartache and we miss her deeply.

“We sincerely hope that Charlotte’s tragic and unnecessary death will serve as a warning to owners of all other equitation centres to take full responsibility for the safety of their clients.

“When something like this happens, you can’t make sense of it. The words to describe it just don’t come. You would never believe it would be so difficult.

“For us to think of Zara not having her mother for the rest of her life is a big, big thing.

“When you are a close family and part of it is taken away you understand what tragedy is.”