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Lack of transport safety led to school boy’s death

It took the death of a 15-year-old school boy to force Bridgend County Borough Council to take proper transport safety measures.

Ashley Talbot was killed and his friend seriously injured in December 2014 when they were struck by a school minibus in the grounds of Maesteg Comprehensive School. Ashley was pronounced dead at the scene.

When the school opened in 2008 it soon became apparent that the layby was nowhere near big enough to accommodate all the school buses at home time.

Some of the buses had to park on the opposite side of the road where there was no pavement. This meant that children had to board the bus from the middle of the road with other vehicles travelling in both directions between the rows of waiting buses.

Despite several near misses the council took no action to enlarge the layby so that pupils could safely board the buses from the pavement.

Diane Parker, personal injury solicitor, said: “Our sincere condolences go to Ashley’s family. The tragic thing here is that this was an accident waiting to happen; near misses had already been reported and ignored.

In the end, the work to modify the layby so that children were able to safely board their school buses instead of dicing with death each day only took the council a couple of weeks to complete.

If it was not for the enforcement action by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prohibited children boarding from the road, there may well have been even more accidents before proper safety measures were taken.”

HSE inspector, Helen Turner commented: “The need for children to cross the road to board their bus could have been taken away with proper planning and design, which should always keep vehicles and pedestrians apart.

At HSE we stand by the principle of PLAN, DO, CHECK, ACT. This management approach is as pertinent for school grounds as it is any other workplace.

We hope that this prosecution will serve as a reminder to those with a responsibility of care to address transport risk in schools and actively monitor that their arrangements are effective.”

At the hearing at Cardiff Crown Court this month, Bridgend County Borough Council pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and were fined £300,000 and ordered to pay over £29,000 costs.

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Time to end the divorce blame game

The vast majority of separating parents want to keep their child’s best interests at heart and try to shield them from the animosity that divorce often brings.

Unfortunately, with more than 100,000 divorces in England and Wales each year, thousands of children do get caught up in the emotional turmoil.

As the law currently stands, unless a couple have been separated for 2 years and consent to the divorce, or 5 years without consent, the only way to divorce is to put one or the other party at fault. Behaviour is the most common fact used in all divorces.

Resolution has been campaigning for an end to the ‘blame game’ for many years and believes that change is now urgently needed to reduce the negative impact on children.

David Kirkham, family law solicitor, said: “We work with separating couples to help them find a way to reach a fair outcome in a non-confrontational way, but the current divorce law can increase conflict between ex-partners. As this research demonstrates, often children suffer a great deal because of the hostility between their parents when they separate.

Reforming the law would help separating couples to focus more on solutions than on who was at fault in the past. This should support couples as they try and amicably agree the arrangements for their children or sort out their finances, without the need to go to court. If agreements can be reached quickly and outside of court, then children are less likely to be exposed to parents being stressed or angry.

Resolution, of which I am proud to be an accredited member, is always seeking to reduce confrontation and encourage families to put the best interests of children first. It is great that they are raising the profile of this issue.”

Just how damaging a divorce can be has been uncovered in a recent survey commissioned by Resolution as part of their ‘Good Divorce Week’ campaign. The results make stark reading.

Almost a third of young people (14-22 years) said they were dragged in to their parent’s disputes with one parent trying to turn them against the other. Almost a fifth lost contact with one or more grandparent.

Education also suffers, with 65% saying that their GCSE results were affected and 44% feeling their A levels suffered. One in 10 found they were getting in more trouble at school.

Resolution has made resources available, both to the public but also local practitioners, to help them campaign to change the system and raise awareness of the long-term impact this conflict can have on children. These are available at www.resolution.org.uk/GoodDivorceWeek