The incident occurred on the 24th July 2012 when four sportspersons, members of the Saffron Striders running club, were training for an upcoming race. They were training on a route that brought them along a public footpath in Newport, Essex. One of the runners – the leader of the group, Dr James Kew, ran into a nearby field and into a 11,000 V electricity cable that was sagging as low as 1.5 m because the porcelain insulator had come apart.
Dr Kew – then aged just forty-one – was killed instantly, and his fellow runners suffered burns when the doctor completed the circuit to the ground. An inquest followed, investigating the circumstances of Dr Kew’s death, which discovered that the low cable had previously been reported to the National Grid and the UK Power Networks, a full half-hour before the accident. However, the companies did no cut power to the area, though decided to send an investigative engineer. However, the employee was twenty minutes too late to prevent the tragedy.
The Health and Safety Executives (HSE) conducted their own investigation into the death, and stated that there was an “underestimated risk to human life” by deciding not to cut power. The UK Power Network was prosecuted by the HSE under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which essentially charged the network with death through corporate negligence.
The UK Power Networks plead guilty to the charge last week when the case was heard in the Chelmsford Crown Court. The court issued a fine of £1 million for the death caused by corporate negligence, as well as ordering the company to pay £153,000 towards the costs of the investigation. HSE Paul Carter commented, after the announcement of the verdict, that “Dr Kew’s family remains completely devastated by their loss and witnesses to this incident have suffered severe trauma and stress-related illness. The incident was entirely preventable”.