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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."

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

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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

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.

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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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Drivers 'disorientated' by fireworks smog

The organiser of a fireworks display, near the scene where seven people died in a crash on the M5, has gone on trial.

Geoffrey Counsell denies failing to ensure the safety of others following the tragedy near Taunton two years ago.

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

Today the prosecution said conditions gave vehicles no chance of stopping.

One driver described it as 'like having a tin of paint thrown over your windscreen.'

From Bristol Crown Court, here's David Woodland.

Man in court over fatal M5 crash

The only man charged in relation to a major crash on the M5 is due in court this morning. Seven people died and 51 were injured in the accident in November 2011.

Geoffrey Counsell had organised a fireworks display close to the motorway. He denies the charges of failing to ensure the health and safety of others.

He is due to appear at Bristol Crown Court later, the trial is expected to last 6 weeks.

M5 Crash November 2011 Credit: ITV News West Country

Full report: man pleads not guilty to M5 crash charge

A man charged in connection with the M5 crash in Somerset which killed seven people, has pleaded not guilty to a breach of health and safety law.

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. From Bristol Crown Court, Richard Payne reports.

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