Nov 06, 2023

Landowner fined £15,000 after his cows launched ‘frenzied attack’ on dog walkers

Sir Charles Hobhouse admitted two health and safety failings on his estate in Monkton Farleigh in Wiltshire

A landowner has been fined £15,000 after cows at his country estate attacked dog walkers in a "frenzied and intense attack".

Sir Charles Hobhouse, 60, admitted two health and safety failings on his land in Monkton Farleigh, Wiltshire.

A court heard dog walkers were trampled by the same herd of 17 cattle and 18 calves on two separate occasions in 2021.

The first incident left a woman with a fractured shoulder and suspected broken ribs, it was said.

Two months later the cattle cornered another dog walker who was left with snapped vertebrae.

Hobhouse, a baronet and former high sheriff who attended Eton, according to a LinkedIn page, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

He was ordered to pay a £15,000 fine and £8,000 costs at Bristol Crown Court.

The hearing was told he took inadequate steps to prevent cattle from attacking members of the public who crossed his land on public footpaths.

The court heard Michael Booley, Joanne Booley and Josian Gauld were walking three dogs through a field on the estate on a public path not fully bounded by electric fencing on June 5, 2021.

The herd then gave chase, trampling Mrs Booley after throwing her into the air before being fought off with a rucksack by Mrs Gauld.

In a statement Mr Booley said the "frenzied and intense attack" had exacerbated his post-traumatic stress disorder from service in the British Army.

Mrs Booley suffered a fractured right shoulder, suspected broken ribs, severe bruising and injuries to her right hand and wrist.

Prosecutor Alastair Haggarty told the court the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited Hobhouse's estate in the aftermath and advised him to keep the herd in fields with fully fenced footpaths or no footpaths at all.

He was told: "You need to treat the herd involved in the incident as aggressive and must take all reasonable precautions."

Yet on 19 August 2021, another dog walker was severely injured by the same herd while walking along an unfenced public footpath in a different field.

The court heard James Johnson, a builder, was walking with his dog at 6am along a path when he was chased by the herd, knocked down and trampled.

Surrounded by cattle, Mr Johnson managed to crawl to a tree and climb its lowest branch only to fall to the ground and be trampled again by a herd which had by then completely encircled him.

In a statement quoted in court, he said: "I genuinely felt like I was going to be killed at this point".

But Mr Johnson managed to get to his feet, strike a cow and escape through a gap in the herd, climbing out of the field over a stile and falling to the ground on a road, where a passing member of the public called an ambulance.

Mr Haggarty said he sustained a concussion, a cut to his head, two dislocated shoulders, three broken ribs and three snapped vertebrae in the incident and nightmares and memory loss in the aftermath.

The prosecution added that Hobhouse "was clearly aware of the risks" of that herd being in a field with unfenced paths.

Malcolm Galloway, defending, told the court his client "takes responsibility for what happens in the estate" but had not himself decided to move them into the field where the second incident occurred.

He said: "Plainly he has shown remorse. He has taken personally what has happened.

"That is why I start with a genuine apology to those people who did nothing wrong but walk in the countryside."

Mr Galloway said the herd had been inspected daily between the first and second incidents by the farm's foreman, Andrew Tucker.

Mr Tucker observed "no indication of any aggressiveness in the herd whatsoever" and he alone then took the decision to move them into the field where the second incident took place, the court heard.

"The court must look at the actions and knowledge of Sir Charles and not the partnership and its employees as a whole," Mr Galloway said.

"He would have not done so had he been aware of it."

In his sentencing remarks, Mr Justice Saini accepted Hobhouse had not been aware the herd had been moved to the field where the second incident occurred.

But he ruled the defendant had not heeded the law in both incidents and in the second had not followed the advice given to him by the HSE.

The judge said: "As a person with overall responsibility, the law requires you to properly assess the risk posed by the cattle and calves at foot near public footpaths.

"You accept by your admissions that you failed to put in protective and preventative measures to mitigate the risk."