Concern for animals on road 'could affect 999 response'

Farmer Harold Lee Mr Lee was killed when the cows he was herding stampeded

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The case of a fireman prosecuted for causing a farmer's death after his sirens caused cows to stampede could affect 999 response times, a retired police chief inspector has said.

Part-time firefighter Julian Lawford, 49, from Glastonbury, used his sirens to try and clear 100 dairy cows from a road when he was on his way to an emergency call.

But the cows stampeded, crushing 75-year-old farmer Harold Lee.

Lawford was given a four-month suspended sentence.

Martin Snell, a retired police chief inspector and head of traffic division, said the case would make many 999 drivers nervous - and that could well affect their response to future emergencies.

"The bottom line is the word service," he said. "The public expect a good service and sometimes this is going to hinder fast response."

Blue lights

Rob Jacobs, from Ashford Solicitors, said motorists could be prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving if animals were frightened by car horns.

Start Quote

Cows don't understand blue lights and klaxons and they can't be expected to. ”

End Quote Ian Johnson NFU

He said: "It depends on the circumstances in which you use that horn.

"If you use your horn appropriately then I would hope that you wouldn't be in any trouble, but if you use your horn inappropriately such as in road rage, then you could find yourself in trouble."

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has defended the right of farmers to walk cattle along the public highway.

Ian Johnson, from the union, said: "They (the cows) have every right to be there, sometimes they have to be there as there's no alternative.

"Cows don't understand blue lights and klaxons and they can't be expected to.

"Everyone who uses the roads has a duty of care. There's no point in creating one emergency on the way to another one."

Mr Johnson said roads were not just for cars and fields were not just for animals.

"Animals have to get from one field to another," he said. "People have every right to ride a horse on the highway, why shouldn't they?

"You as a car driver should exercise care, consideration and courtesy at all times and you should be in complete control of the vehicle and able to react to the circumstances as they arise.

"If we stop people moving animals on the road over short distances, we've got huge problems."

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