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Farmer facing £50k fine after bullock jumps six-foot fence and causes serious crash

A farmer faces a major compensation bill after one of his bullocks leapt a six-foot fence and caused a serious crash.

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Farmer facing £50k fine after bullock jumps six-foot fence and causes serious crash

The Charolais steer managed to clear the fence despite weighing the best part of half a ton, a court heard.


The panicked animal crashed through a hedge and other fences before straying onto the A465 dual carriageway at Glynneath, in Wales.

 

Passing motorist Martyn Williams hit the bullock and was badly injured. The bullock died in the impact.

 

And now the bullock’s owner, local farmer Jeffrey Hawkes, faces having to pay Mr Williams up to £50,000 damages, plus heavy legal costs.

 

Appeal Court judges said that neither Mr Hawkes, nor his now deceased father, Derfyl, could have predicted the bullock’s escape.

 

Neither of them had been negligent, but they would still have to compensate the motorist under the controversial Animals Act 1971.

 


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Lord Justice Davis said Derfyl Hawkes, of nearby Pencomin Farm, had bought the bullock at auction just the day before the December 2011 accident.

 

Charolais are normally a “docile” breed and Mr Hawkes put the bullock out in the field with others, keeping a close eye on them.

 

But when Jeffrey Hawkes got home from a shopping trip to Swansea , he noticed that the bullock was missing.

 

Damage to a fence and gate showed that the animal had jumped a six-foot fence before careering about a mile and a half to the road.

 

Mr Williams suffered amnesia after the accident, but the driver behind him heard a loud bang as the Ford Mondeo slammed into the crazed bullock.

The animal, which did not survive, was thrown into the air by the force of the impact and Mr Williams’s car was severely damaged.

 

An animal expert said Charolais cattle could be “flighty” when spooked, but no-one knew what had frightened it into escaping from the field.

 

Once on the road, it would have been terrified by the “strange environment” in which it found itself and the noise and lights of passing cars.

 

Ruling on the case last year at Cardiff County Court, Judge Lloyd Williams QC cleared the farmers of negligence.

 

Derfyl Hawkes, an experienced beef farmer, had followed the book in feeding and watering the steer overnight before letting it out into the field.

 

The farmers’ care of the bullock had been “impeccable” and “was a matter to be lauded”, he said.

 

There was nothing wrong with the “entirely appropriate” fence and it was “surprising” that the such a huge animal managed to jump it.

 

There was also nothing “inherently dangerous” about the animal and its panicked behaviour was only to expected when it reached the road.

 

But the judge nevertheless found Jeffrey Hawkes, who was sued on behalf of his father’s estate, liable to compensate the injured motorist.

 

Rejecting the farmer’s appeal on Tuesday, Lord Justice Davis said liability under the 1971 Act did not require proof of negligence.

 

The damage caused by the bullock was “of a kind which the animal, unless restrained, was likely to cause,” he said.

 

And Derfyl Hawkes would have been aware that Charolais cattle “have a propensity to act in a wholly unpredicable manner” when frightened.

 

Lord Justice Hickinbottom agreed that Jeffrey Hawkes’ appeal should be dismissed.

 

Although the amount of the motorist’s payout has yet to be finally assessed, he is claiming up to £50,000 damages, the court heard.

 

And Mr Hawkes was also ordered to pay the action’s legal costs, estimated at another £40,000, reported Wales Online.

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