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Farmer on trial for manslaughter after death of young female volunteer

A farmer has gone on trial accused of the manslaughter of a young volunteer who died after being trapped in unguarded machinery.

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Farmer on trial for manslaughter after death of young female volunteer

Animal lover Lauren Scott was a volunteer on Neil Carpenter’s farm in Devon when she was dragged into power shaft which had a broken cover.


She was trying to mill grain to feed livestock in a machine that dated back to the 1930s when she was caught in a Power Take Off device linked to a tractor.


A protective cover which would have cost just £75 to replace was broken and failed to prevent the accident, Exeter Crown Court was told.


Lauren, aged 20, suffered catastrophic injuries and was stripped naked as the machine ripped off her clothes and one of her wellies.


Carpenter told investigators he did not know she was using the machinery but the jury were told that a video Lauren she sent to her family just minutes earlier showed that he had started the tractor.

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Carpenter, aged 45, of Springfield Farm, Dawlish, South Devon, denies her manslaughter by gross negligence but has admitted two health and safety charges of failing to ensure the safety of visitors to the farm.


Mr David Sapiecha, prosecuting, said Carpenter said failed in his duty of care to such a great extent that it amounted to manslaughter.


He said Carpenter dialled 999 just after 1pm on March 4, 2017 after Lauren suffered multiple injuries in a ’catastrophic entanglement’ in the PTO shaft.


The milling machine dated from before World War Two but was adapted to be fitted so it could link up and be powered by the PTO.


Mr Sapiecha said: "Lauren was a regular visitor to the farm to help out with the work there, she was not paid. She took pleasure from the animals, particularly the pigs she enjoyed looking after.


“She was 5’2" tall and had long hair. She was wearing a headband and her hair was relatively loose. Her hair and clothes at some point became caught and trapped in that PTO shaft.


"The effect would have been instantaneous and catastrophic. The power produced and speed was incredibly dangerous.


"There was no possibility of her pulling away or reacting because it was too quick and too powerful."

Mr Sapiecha said the PTO did have a yellow plastic cover but it was poorly maintained and the ends of the shaft were exposed, and the cover was also broken in parts.


He said even a glance at the cover would have revealed its obvious defects.


Carpenter, who also works as a parking enforcement officer for parking in Dawlish, owns and runs the 10-acre small holding with his family.


They had sheep, pigs, cows, chickens and ducks and it was a commercial enterprise although Carpenter told HSE inspectors he had not made a profit since 2002.


Mr Sapiecha said that might a reason why Carpenter had failed to invest in and provide suitable equipment. After the incident a Health and Safety investigator banned him from using eleven different pieces of equipment on the small holding, mostly to do with the PTO power sources.


He told the jury that Lauren was part of a close family and ’she loved animals’.


She worked at Pets Corner at Powderham Castle, she worked in stables, was a horse catcher at Newton Abbot racecourse and she kept three horses as well as rabbits, chickens and one of the family’s five dogs.


He said:"She was bright and sensible and her dad had taught her to be careful around machinery."


Carpenter had attended Bicton Agricultural College on a four-year course where PTO safety would have been taught.


Mr Sapiecha said Lauren had used her phone to make a seven second long video of some of the piglets she was looking after - and in the background a tractor can be heard starting up, presumably by Carpenter.


He later told police he was not in the cab of the tractor when Lauren was killed and was bedding the pigs.


Mr Sapiecha said:"He said Lauren had gone off and he did not know where.


"When he came out of there he heard a loud bang and he could see smoke. The engine was running, that was a surprise to him. He climbed into the cab and turned off the PTO and ignition.


"He walked to the rear of the milling machine which was on its side and saw Lauren on her back. She was naked apart from her bra such was the force it had ripped off her clothes and deposited them around."


"He said he did not ask or tell Lauren to use the mill as it was broken and would not bruise the grain.


"The prosecution say this is lies. He was aware Lauren was using the mill at the time. His tractor was running."


He said Lauren’s piglets video had ’by chance’ caught the sound of the old tractor starting up and someone was in the tractor cab - and only Lauren and Carpenter were at the smallholding and Lauren was shooting the video.


"He is not telling the truth," said Mr Sapiecha. "The system was set up ready to use by Lauren or both of them," adding that the milling machine was in a dangerous condition.


"He had a cavalier attitude to safety. He unlawfully killed Lauren Scott by gross negligence. We do not allege he intended to kill her but he was a person running a farm with a duty of care over her safety. He breached that in a number of ways."


Lauren’s mother wept as the Crown opened its case as she sat in the public gallery and heard Mr Sapiecha say Lauren was a ’trusted person who was a close friend of the defendant’.

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