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Sproughton: Coroner calls for ‘fly grazing’ to be outlawed following driver’s death in collision with stray horses on A14

PUBLISHED: 15:34 09 April 2014 | UPDATED: 15:59 09 April 2014

Thomas Allen, who was killed after a crash on the A14 caused by horses belonging to Humphrys

Thomas Allen, who was killed after a crash on the A14 caused by horses belonging to Humphrys

Archant

A coroner has called for new laws to be passed after a young driver was killed in a collision with stray horses on the A14.

The car damaged when horses strayed onto the A14 at Sproughton on Christmas Eve The car damaged when horses strayed onto the A14 at Sproughton on Christmas Eve

Thomas Allen, 23, suffered fatal brain injuries when he crashed into the escaped animals near Sproughton while driving home to spend Christmas with his family .

Today’s inquest at the Ip-City Centre, heard that the horses had been seen regularly roaming loose on roads in the area, having been left to “fly graze” on land without the owner’s permission

Coroner Peter Dean described the tragedy as an “accident waiting to happen” and called for fly grazing to be made illegal to prevent a recurrence of the “dreadful tragedy”.

“It’s very clear that what took place was an awful tragedy,” he said.

“There had been numerous reports of horses on the loose on or near the road or in locations where the potential for an accident was always there.”

The horses’ owner, Stacy Humphrys, 27, of West Meadows, Ipswich, was jailed for 28 months on March 13, after admitting a public nuisance offence by allowing his animals to stray.

Pc Jeffrey Cribb, giving evidence to the inquest, said Humphrys had been grazing his horses on a sugar beet site without the owner’s permission and that the practice, though legal, was a “national problem”.

Referring to a report from the National Farmers’ Union, Dr Dean said there had been calls for Parliament to make fly grazing a criminal offence and for management plans to be drawn up by police and local authorities.

“The picture here seems to be a recurring problem with potential deficiencies in the legislation that might have enabled it to have been dealt with more swiftly,” he said.

Dr Dean, recording a verdict of accidental death, said he would write to police forces and local authorities to “ensure sufficient priority is given to the problem”.

He will also write to the secretary of state for environment food and rural affairs asking for fly grazing to be made a criminal office “so that action can be taken swiftly to minimise the chance of such a dreadful tragedy happening again.”

Mr Allen, a stock controller from Soham, Cambrideshire, had been travelling with his girlfriend on Christmas Eve 2012 when the accident happened.

Pc Cribb, a forensic collision investigator with Suffolk Constabulary, said the car had been “heavily damaged” with the roof “concertinaed” by the force of the collision, which left three horses dead.

Mr Allen’s Vauxhall Corsa had travelled 200ms along the road before his girlfriend grabbed the handbrake.

Following motorists said the road was very dark and that it would have been “impossible” to see the horses approaching.

Pc Cribb said there was no suggestion Mr Allen had been driving inappropriately, under the influence of drink or drugs, or distracted by his mobile phone.

Dr Dean offered his condolences to the family “and all touched by this loss in these very sad circumstances”.

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