M5 manslaughter charges dropped

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Manslaughter charges have been dropped against Geoffrey Counsell Manslaughter charges have been dropped against Geoffrey Counsell

Relatives of the seven people who died in a pile-up on the M5 have said their torment goes on after manslaughter charges against a firework display organiser were dropped.

The horror smash, which involved 34 vehicles, has been described as one of the worst British motorway crashes in memory.

Anthony and Pamela Adams, Maggie and Michael Barton, Malcolm Beacham, Terry Brice and Kye Thomas all died in the incident on November 4 2011, which left more than 50 people injured.

Geoffrey Counsell, 50, from Somerset, was operating a firework display in a field close to the motorway, at Taunton Rugby Club, at the time and on October 19 last year was charged with seven counts of manslaughter.

But at Bristol Crown Court the charges were dropped following a review of the case and he now faces being charged under the Health and Safety at Work Act with failing to ensure the safety of others - a charge which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Leaving court, Tonia White, 49, whose parents Mr and Mrs Adams were killed on their way back from visiting the family in Taunton, said the torment for the families goes on.

She said: "It's been a very traumatic experience. However we're confident in the justice system and although the CPS have discontinued the charges of manslaughter, we are led to believe there will be health and safety issues to address and are confident the outcome will remain the same."

Jean Brice, from Bedminster, Bristol - whose eldest son died in the crash - left court with her husband, 83-year-old Terry Brice.

The 79-year-old said: "It's a very sensitive case, but what can we say? It won't stop the cruelty and misery that we two 80-year-olds have to go through for the rest of our days."

The collision involved 34 vehicles and witnesses spoke of thick smoke causing visibility problems for motorists.

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