Bridge may be troubled legal water

By Ian Dipple Friday 21 February 2014 Updated: 24/02 16:43

FAILURE to take action at a bridge over the Bromsgrove Highway where several people have lost their lives could leave the county council open to legal action, it has been claimed.

Coun Graham Vickery, who represents Redditch North division which includes the bridge, suggested witnesses to suicide attempts may be able to claim for damages for emotional and psychological distress, while there was also the cost to the emergency services of dealing with any incidents to be considered.

Between April 2006 and October 2012 six people died at the site, with a further five attempts and 32 threats. In 2009 police asked for action to be taken at the bridge because of the high suicide rate including putting up protective fencing.

The idea was recently considered but the £60,000 cost and concerns about setting a precedent for other foot, road and rail bridges across the county meant it was rejected along with the installation of catch netting underneath. Worcestershire’s Health and Well-Being Board also stated that a ‘possible cluster of suicide attempts and suicides’ was ‘no longer evident’ at the site which was another factor in the decision not to take any action.

During a debate at County Hall last Thursday (February 13) Coun Vickery asked if the council had sought legal advice on the decision of the health and well-being board to ignore calls for action from organisations including the North Worcestershire Community Safety Partnership, police and Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning group.

“If councils are open to legal challenge if somebody trips over a misplaced pavement or if this council can be brought to a court of law about damages to vehicles caused by potholes, surely there is a risk this council could be taken to task for consciously and deliberately deciding not to prevent falls from that bridge by action rather than by signing?”

But Coun Marcus Hart, responsible for health and well-being on the council, said the site and others across the county would be monitored and if there was an increase in incidents within the next 12 months then the decision would be reviewed. He disagreed they had taken no action as signs had been installed by Samaritans - although it was pointed out they had not been put in place by the county council and before the health and well-being board made its decision.

Coun Hart added: “I can confirm I have sought legal assurance that has advised it would not expose the local authority to risk in respect of damages at this location or indeed any other.”

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