At Bristol Crown Court on 15 January 2013, manslaughter charges were withdrawn against Geoffrey Counsell from Somerset, who was arrested and charged last year after seven people died in a multi-vehicle crash near junction 25 of the M5 motorway. 51 others were injured in the collision which involved over 30 vehicles.
Mr Counsell will now face one charge, under health and safety laws, of failing to ensure the safety of others. That case will be heard at a later date.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary issued a statement this afternoon. Senior Investigation Officer, Detective Superintendent Mike Courtiour said:
“The collision on the M5 in November 2011 was one of the worst in living memory. Fifty one people were injured and seven people tragically lost their lives. We launched a comprehensive investigation immediately after to establish the full circumstances which led to the collision.
Our investigation was meticulous and complex. We took hundreds of witness statements, examined 34 vehicles and consulted several experts, including meteorologists, pyrotechnic and forensic specialists. Based on this evidence the Crown Prosecution Service took a decision to charge. However, following further consideration in recent weeks they have decided to discontinue the manslaughter charges.”
Given the further health and safety charges, the Police declined to comment further.
Mr Counsell had organised a firework display held at Taunton Rugby Club, near to junction 25 of the M5, on 4 November 2011, when the crash happened. The exact cause of the collision is still unknown. Initial investigations centred on the firework display which may have resulted in a blanket of thick black smoke drifting from the Rugby Club where the display was held. There was a suspicion that the weather conditions, and fog in particular, may have contributed to poor visibility for drivers.
An Inquest into the deaths of Terry Brice, Kye Thomas, Michael and Valerie Barton, Malcolm Beacham and Anthony and Pamela Adams was opened in November 2011 and subsequently adjourned pending the outcome of the Police investigation and any criminal prosecution.