Page last updated at 19:13 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Trust cleared of boy's tree death

Timothy Sutton
Timothy Sutton was walking with his family when the tree fell

Safety watchdogs have decided not to prosecute The National Trust after a young boy from Greater Manchester was killed by a falling tree in Cheshire.

Timothy Sutton, aged eight, from Urmston, was crushed under a 300-year-old tree at Dunham Massey Park in Altrincham on 1 January 2005.

The rotting beech tree was blown over by high winds as he walked past.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said it was a "complex case" with "no realistic prospect of a conviction".

A spokesman for the HSE said: "The HSE's conclusion that there was no realistic prospect of a conviction for any breaches of health and safety law reflects the opinions sought from expert witnesses and legal advisors.

"HSE recognises its decision will be extremely difficult and unwelcome for Timothy's family, especially as it comes so near the anniversary of his death.

"The management of very old trees is challenging for organisations such as the National Trust, which must balance the management of our natural heritage with the safety of the public."

Police van outside Dunham Park, near Altrincham
The tree collapsed in winds of 67mph

Timothy's family said they were "very disappointed" by the decision.

Senior HSE managers have offered to meet them to explain their reasoning in person.

A spokesman for the National Trust said: "Although the considerations given by the HSE to this tragic case have been lengthy and considerable, we welcome the conclusion that there was nothing to suggest that safety standards did not meet legal and statutory requirements.

"We continue to extend our sympathy to Timothy's family and friends and remain deeply saddened by the accident.

"The National Trust looks after over six million trees and we have robust and stringent tree management procedures that are far above the legal requirements demanded by Health & Safety legislation.

"Advice on tree safety procedures and record keeping is sought from the National Trust by many other organisations and local authorities. We continue to review these systems and work closely with the HSE on this."

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