Live updates

  1. West Country

M5 crash: Man pleads not guilty to health & safety charge

Geoffrey Counsell. Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

The only man to be charged following the M5 crash in Somerset which killed seven people has today pleaded not guilty to a breach of health and safety.

Firework company boss Geoffrey Counsell organised a display at a rugby club beside the motorway in Taunton on the night of the pile-up in November 2011.

As well as the seven deaths, 51 people were injured, some seriously, in what was one of the worst ever motorway crashes in the UK.

Mr Counsell appeared at Bristol Crown Court to deny a charge that on November 4, 2011 he failed the ensure the health and safety of persons unknown.

He was released on unconditional bail at the end of a 50 minute hearing. A provisional trial date has been set for November 11.

Charges of manslaughter were dropped at an earlier hearing.

  1. National

New rescue helicopters 'will reach larger area of UK'

The Department for Transport has said that under the new contract helicopters will be able to reach a larger area of the UK Search and Rescue region within an hour of take-off than is currently possible.

An RAF Sea King helicopter that will no longer be used under the new contract. Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

It added that, based on historic incident data, it is estimated there will be an overall improvement in flying times to incidents of around 20 percent (from 23 to 19 minutes).

Presently, approximately 70 percent of high and very high-risk areas within the UK SAR region are reachable by helicopter within 30 minutes. Under the new contract, approximately 85 percent of the same area would be reached within this time frame.


  1. Chris Ship
  2. National

Govt to announce sell-off of Search and Rescue service

The government is set to announce that Britain's Search and Rescue service is to be sold off to an American firm.

Up until now, the operation has been run by the RAF, Navy and Coastguard Agency.

The firm will actually be awarded two contracts, because the service has been separated into two parts operating different types of helicopter.

An announcement is expected just before the stock market opens in the morning.

Police: M5 crash investigation 'meticulous and complex'

The collision was one of the worst in living memory.

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.

– Detective Superintendent Mike Courtiour, Avon & Somerset Police