North Yorkshire County Council ‘failed’ cave death boy, Joe Lister

Joe Lister

Joe Lister

First published in News

A TEENAGE boy killed in a caving tragedy at a North Yorkshire beauty spot was “failed by the council”, a court heard.

North Yorkshire County Council is accused of breaching health and safety laws after Joe Lister, 14, was killed when flood water swept through Manchester Hole Cave in the Yorkshire Dales, on November 14, 2005.

Proceedings started yesterday at Leeds Crown Court, a day after what would have been Joe’s 19th birthday.

The court heard no one checked the water levels or weather conditions at a reservoir which overflowed and flooded a cave and Joe died when water swept through Manchester Hole Cave.

Joe was trying to make his way along a passage known as The Crawl with ten other pupils and three adults when he got into difficulty in rapidly rising flood water.

Prosecuting Tim Horlock QC said there was “overwhelming evidence” North Yorkshire County Council had exposed the children and its own employees to risks to their health and safety.

As the youngsters set off in a minibus to travel to the cave, no one travelled the “relatively short distance” to Scar House Reservoir to check on the conditions, the jury was told.

The court was told the scene at the dam was so “spectacular” that one witness decided to record the scene on his mobile phone as the “waves of water” came over the dam wall.

The council, which owns and operates the outdoor education centre, Bewerley Park Centre, faces two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974).

It is accused of failing to ensure the health and safety of its own employees and another charge of failing to ensure the health and safety of non-council employees.

Joe, a pupil at Tadcaster Grammar School, became separated from his friends in the cave and drowned, the jury was told.

Mr Horlock described to the jury the dramatic scenes as the “hysterical” youngsters tried to make their way out of the flooded passageway. The jury was told it was “dark, freezing and muddy” and panic and confusion took hold as the youngsters tried to escape.

Joe’s mother and father, Paula and Martin Lister, and other members of the family, listened in the public gallery as the prosecutor accused the council of “complacency and lack of rigour” in identifying the risks at Manchester Hole.

The trial, which is scheduled to last six weeks, was adjourned until today when the jury will be taken on a visit to the scene.

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