Council could face prosecution

SAFETY experts are deciding whether to prosecute a council in connection with the death of a three-year-old boy, killed by a falling tree in a Felixstowe wood.

By Richard Cornwell

SAFETY experts are deciding whether to prosecute a council in connection with the death of a three-year-old boy, killed by a falling tree in a Felixstowe wood.

Today Suffolk Coastal council would still not answer questions about The Grove and why it had not been closed.

The government's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched an investigation into the state of the 15-acre woodland and why it was not shut and warning signs put up in advance of the weekend's hurricane-force winds.

Little Benjamin Davey died after being struck by a falling tree as he walked through the popular wood with his mother Veronica Deri .

They were on a public footpath when the tragedy happened and the tree came crashing down on top of the youngster.

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The Grove was open all day Sunday and dozens of people took their dogs for walks through the site on the edge of the resort.

But unlike in Ipswich, where the borough council took the decision to close all parks and open spaces, Suffolk Coastal left its recreation areas open.

It is understood HSE officers are visiting the wood off Grove Road to assess the situation and one question they will be posing is whether the tree was in such a poor state that council staff should have had it felled before the storm.

There have been a number of allegations made about the state of the wood and some of its trees, but also bridges over ditches and streams without guard rails.

If the HSE finds that the wood posed a danger and should have been closed, it could prosecute under health and safety legislation.

Benjamin's parents, Veronica Deri and Andrew Davey, of Looe Road, Old Felixstowe, believe their son would be alive today if the woods had been sealed off sooner.

District councillor Dot Paddick said: "The council has a duty to protect its residents and I cannot understand why The Grove and other parks were not closed during this storm, when it was predicted so far in advance.

"These places could have been closed as a precaution, just for one day. While many people will say people should not be out walking in such weather, I think you have to assume many people will want to walk and if a park is open and there are not warning signs, people will go in."

Chairman of Suffolk Coastal John Richardson has sent a message of sympathy on behalf of the authority to Benjamin's parents.

"We are all desperately sorry for Benjamin's family, and send them our deepest sympathy, on behalf of everyone in the district. None of us can truly understand the grief they must be feeling, but we want them to know how deeply everyone in Suffolk Coastal feels for them at this time," he said,

A council spokesman said Suffolk Coastal was working with the HSE on its investigation.

The Grove is now largely impassable due to a large number of fallen trees and branches and has been shut. Once the work has been completed to clear the site, it will again be accessible to the public.

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