Suspended sentence for farmer whose cows trampled man to death

Michael Holmes, 57, and his wife Teresa
Michael Holmes died at the scene while his wife Teresa suffered serious spinal injuries [HSE]

A farmer has been given a six-month suspended prison sentence and fined after his cattle trampled one dog walker to death and left another paralysed.

Martin Mitchell was sentenced on 22 May in connection with the incident on his farm in Netherton, Wakefield, in September 2020.

Michael Holmes, 57, and his wife Teresa were walking on a public footpath with their two whippets when they were attacked by the herd.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Mr Mitchell had failed to ensure the cows were suitably segregated from the right of way.

Mr Holmes, a telecommunications specialist, died at the scene while his wife suffered spinal injuries that left her having to use a wheelchair.

She also had to give up her job with Leeds City Council.

The two dogs, which belonged to their daughter, managed to escape and were later found by one of the couple’s neighbours in Netherton.

In a victim personal statement read to Leeds Magistrates' Court, Mrs Holmes said: "Having to cope with two traumas has been very difficult.

"I am paralysed from the waist down. I now have to use a wheelchair. This has transformed my life beyond anything I could ever imagine.

"The course of my life, and my late husband’s, has been thrown into great turmoil as a result of the farmer’s negligence."

An inquest at Wakefield Coroner's Court in 2023 ruled that Mr Holmes' death was accidental.

'Tragic incident'

After Mr Mitchell's sentencing, HSE inspector Sally Gay said: "Large animals can be a risk to people. Even a gentle knock from a cow can result in injury.

"Seemingly docile cattle can pose a risk to walkers when they are under stress or feel threatened, and can exhibit instinctive maternal or aggressive behaviour.

"This tragic incident could easily have been avoided if basic precautions had been taken by the farmer.

"Readily available HSE guidance states that, where possible, cows with calves should not be grazed in fields where there is a public right of way.

"Where this is not possible they should be segregated from the footpath by appropriate fencing where it is reasonable to do so."

Mr Mitchell, of Netherton, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

As well as the suspended sentence, he was also ordered to pay a fine of £500 and make a contribution of £3,500 towards costs.

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