TV star's park fined £70k for health and safety breach
A WILDLIFE park run by TV star Anna Ryder Richardson and her husband has been fined £70,000 for health and safety breaches.
Colin MacDougall, the celebrity interior designer's husband, received a further fine of £4,000 after he admitted two identical breaches.
At Swansea Crown Court, MacDougall, 46, and Manor House Wildlife Park, West Wales, were ordered to pay a combined £111,000 in fines and costs in relation to the case.
Identical charges against Ryder Richardson were withdrawn last week on the eve of a three-week trial when MacDougall, and the company they jointly run, changed their pleas to guilty.
Gruff Davies-Hughes suffered serious head injuries at the attraction when he was hit by a tree bough when it was blown down in strong winds in August 2010.
The 3-year-old spent three days fighting for his life in intensive care after being airlifted to Morriston Hospital, Swansea.
His mother Emme Davies-Hughes suffered head injuries and fractures to her leg, pelvis and arm.
The mother and son, from Llanelli, were among dozens of people visiting the wallaby enclosure at the time.
Judge Paul Thomas was scathing in his condemnation of MacDougall's attitude after the incident.
He said a refusal to close the attraction had seen Pembrokeshire County Council act to order it closed on safety grounds.
In the 48 hours after the event, five potentially dangerous trees were felled in the enclosure where it happened.
Earlier, the court heard that the guilty pleas were accepted on the basis that there was no causal link to the incident.
But the judge questioned why MacDougall failed to act on surveys from an expert who advised action on a number of trees and warned that risk assessments were needed if new areas were opened to the public.
He said: "The defendant, in my view, fell very significantly below the proper standard."
He said that it was "significant" that as soon as expert advice was implemented, all the outstanding problems were quickly resolved.
The sentence was welcomed by Pembrokeshire County Council.
"The sentences reflect the fact that Manor House Wildlife Park and Colin MacDougall failed, over a number of years, to manage the risk posed to the paying public and employees at the park," it stated.
Earlier in the hearing, the court was told that Ryder Richardson had sunk more than £1 million of her own cash into the wildlife park.
The couple also put profits back into the park and were spending £200,000 on a new rhino enclosure.
Bad weather this summer, however, meant profits looked like coming in at closer to £10,000.
Simon Morgan, for the council, underlined the fact that the admitted breaches could not be linked to the incident.
The event had sparked a health and safety investigation which went on to find serious problems with the park's risk management regime.
"There is evidence to link breach with the incident," he said.
"The court cannot be satisfied so that it could be sure that a proper regime would have identified the tree as a risk such that it would have resulted in immediate action, and thereby have dealt appropriately with the risk and avoided the accident."