Victims react to today's ruling

As the case against the man accused of causing the M5 crash is dismissed, our reporter Bob Cruwys has been to meet survivors.

M5 crash case dismissed by judge

The case against the man who put on a fireworks display close to the M5 in Somerset where 7 people died has been dismissed.

Fireworks man 'failed over safety'

The M5 crash could have been avoided if the organiser of a fireworks display fulfilled his health and safety duties, a jury has heard.

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Local council reaction

The Council is now seeking to work closely with the relevant authorities to to see if the current guidance regarding large fireworks displays, such as the one at Taunton Rugby Club, is appropriate.

We also pledge our support for any changes that may be deemed necessary.

Our primary concern is to minimise the risks of this type of unimaginable incident happening again.

On behalf of the Council, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the families of the bereaved and the families and friends of all those affected by these terrible events.

I would also pay tribute to all those who showed such bravery at the scene, to all the emergency services and to staff at the hospitals where the injured

were treated.

– Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, Cllr John Williams
West Country (W)

Local MP reaction

This brings to a legal end the terrible events of two years ago.

But the families affected will live with the consequences of that appalling night forever.

Although the evidence did not support a prosecution, one legacy of what happened should still be a continued effort to improve road safety.

Britain has low casualty rates compared to other European countries, but I have written to the Transport Secretary asking him to consider what more can be done to improve visibility and remove distractions along our motorway network.

– Taunton Deane MP, Jeremy Browne

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West Country (W)

Acquitted fireworks organiser criticises authorities over prosecution

A Judge directed the jury to find Geoffrey Counsell not guilty. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The man who organised a fireworks display near the scene of a crash on the M5 has criticised the authorities after a case against him was dismissed.

Geoffrey Counsell was accused of failing to ensure the safety of others after 7 people died in a crash on the motorway near the display at Taunton Rugby Club.

A Judge directed the jury to find him not guilty.

Speaking through his soliciter, Mr Counsell said "Before a final decision to go ahead with the display was taken the Highways Agency, the Taunton Deane Borough Council and the Avon and Somerset Constabulary were consulted.

"All were informed of the fact and nature of the display. No objection of any kind was raised. As matters transpired, the Taunton Deane Borough Council and Avon and Somerset Constabulary were to be the agencies which prosecuted me in respect of that same display.

"The display was carried out without incident. It was a very foggy night and the fireworks produced some smoke, which would have mingled with the fog.

"However, I saw nothing to cause me to believe that any firework smoke would cause a hazard and I do not believe that it did so.

"As the judge noted in his ruling, the prosecution case was founded on criticism of me for 'failing to take a step which had never been taken before'.

"It is perhaps relevant to note that there were around 1,000 people at the display, including serving police and fire officers. Not a single one of those people raised any concern at the time about the smoke or fog, whether during or after the display."

West Country (W)

Judge: fireworks organiser had "no reason to think it was a hazard"

The Judge presiding over the trial of an organiser of a firework display near the scene of a crash on the M5 said he had "no previous reason to think it was a hazard."

7 people died in the pile up on the motorway in 2011. Geoffrey Counsell was accused of failing to ensure the safety of others when smoke from a fireworks display blew onto the road before the crash.

But Judge Justice Simon directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty.

The prosecution case required Mr Counsell to appreciate and react more or less instantly to something not thought to be a hazard to anyone and had no previous reason to think it was a hazard.He added: "There was no proper basis that you could have concluded that a reasonable person would have appreciated a reasonable risk and reacted to it to stop the display

– Judge Justice Simon
West Country (W)

Council to reconsider fireworks display guidance

Taunton Deane Borough Council say they will reconsider the guidance for putting on large fireworks displays following the acquittal of an organiser Geoffrey Counsell.

Mt Counsell was accused of failing to ensure safety when he organised a display at a rugby club near to where 7 people died in a crash on the M5.

The Council is now seeking to work closely with the relevant authorities to see if the current guidance regarding large fireworks displays, such as the one at Taunton Rugby Club, is appropriate. We also pledge our support for any changes that may be deemed necessary. Our primary concern is to minimise the risks of this type of unimaginable incident happening again.

On behalf of the Council, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the families of the bereaved and the families and friends of all those affected by these terrible events.

I would also pay tribute to all those who showed such bravery at the scene, to all the emergency services and to staff at the hospitals where the injured were treated.

There will be a Coroner’s inquest in due course and the Coroner may make recommendations having heard the evidence laid before the inquest.

– Cllr John Williams, Council Leader, Taunton Deane Borough Council

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M5 crash was like "pinballs in a machine"

A jury at Bristol Crown Court has heard how drivers crashed 'like pinballs in a machine' as, it is claimed, dense smoke from a firework display triggered a motorway pile-up which killed seven people.

A survivor of the crash, which left 51 injured following the horror smash on the M5 in Somerset, feared the next impact would kill him as he rebounded in the blinding cloud.

Dozens of cars, vans and lorries collided in one of the worst traffic accidents seen in the UK in November 2011.

Geoffrey Counsell, 51, is accused of health and safety breaches over the huge display at Taunton Rugby Club where around 1,500 rockets fired in just 15 minutes. He denies the charges

"Within a fraction of a second of passing junction 25 my window screen went completely white as if a blanket had been thrown over it, it was like a thick layer of snow.....

"I was taken by surprise and before I had time to activate my fog lights or my hazard lights the fog began thinning.

"I could see three sets of break lights directly in front of me, on the near side and the off side, and immediately I thought I was going to hit the vehicle in front so I braked as hard as I could.

"The only thing I can liken it to is being a pinball in a machine."

– Witness, Steve Kingsland who was caught in the crash
West Country (W)

Crash site becomes focus

The jury in the M5 crash trial have been visiting the scene of the accident, where seven people died.

The pile-up has been described as one of the worst motorway crashes in British history.

Today focus turned to Taunton rugby club, where the man accused of failing to ensure the safety of others, organised a fireworks display that night.

Rebecca Broxton reports.

Jury visit crash site

Jury members in the M5 crash trial have been visiting the scene of the accident in Somerset.

Seven people died when dozens of vehicles collided near the Taunton junction two years ago.

Geoffrey Counsell, who organised a nearby firework display, denies failing to ensure the safety of others.

The pile-up has been described as one of the worse motorway crashes in British history.

His trial continues at Bristol Crown Court.

Jury in M5 crash trial visit site of accident Credit: ITV News West Country

Pictured: site of fireworks display on night of M5 crash

A pitch at Taunton Rugby Club, with the M5 bridge in the distance. Credit: ITV News

The picture shows Taunton Rugby Club, site of a fireworks display on the night of the fatal M5 crash, which happened nearby. The prosecution allege that smoke from the display contributed to the crash, in which 7 people died.

The display organiser, Geoffrey Counsell, is accused of failing to ensure the safety of others. He denies the charge.

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