Trainer was ‘grossly irresponsible’, says judge

Fernside horse trainer Phillip Benjamin Burrows’ actions that led to a boy being run over at a training track were described as “grossly irresponsible” by Christchurch District Court Judge Gary MacAskill.

The judge said he could not understand how someone in Burrows’ situation could be so stupid.

He said Burrows had a high level of culpability for the accident on April 28, 2016, at a training track in Fernside, where the 10-year-old boy apparently fell under the wheels of a water truck as it drove along.

The boy was a friend of Burrows’ son, and the two were playing around the truck – climbing on and off – as it moved slowly along.

Judge MacAskill said: “You knew the boys were getting on and off the truck, and in close proximity to it. Your attitude must be condemned as grossly irresponsible. You took risks with the lives of the boys.”

Burrows clearly had no sensible appreciation of what might happen through a slip, or a miscalculation, or skylarking, he said.

Burrows pleaded guilty in July to a Worksafe New Zealand prosecution, that he exposed someone to the risk of death or serious injury at his workplace or enterprise.

Before his sentencing today, defence counsel Andrew McCormick filed submissions and an affidavit that Burrows had the means to pay a certain amount in reparations, at about $100 a week, but nothing extra.

Worksafe prosecutor DeAnne Brabant said it was the first sentencing of its type, where an individual had been prosecuted under the workplace safety act. The suggested reparation figure was just below the figure Worksafe suggested, but she asked that Burrows be ordered to pay a contribution towards setting up a family trust for the money that the victim would receive.

Mr McCormick said: “Mr Burrows wanted me to express his absolute abject horror at what happened.”

His horse training business was continuing “but the scale of his operation has decreased somewhat because of his own psychological state”.

The boy was airlifted to Christchurch Hospital where he underwent surgery and was admitted to the intensive care unit. He was discharged a month later after treatment for injuries including multiple fractures, a collapsed lung, and a hernia.

Judge MacAskill said he had made a “remarkable but incomplete receovery”.

He noted that Burrows was a first offender. He was seen as having a good character as a family man and businessman. He was seen as trustworthy and reliable, a man of integrity and high reputation.

He noted that from time to time Burrows had let children play around the water truck as it moved along slowly “without a second thought”.

He ordered Burrows to pay emotional harm reparations which will be held in trust for the boy, including for his education, totalling $25,000. Burrows will pay $2000 immediately and the rest by instalments.

He also ordered reparations for the boy’s parents of $226 – the cost of their parking at Christchurch Hospital – which was all they asked for, and $500 to set up the trust.

The judge said Burrows did not have the means to pay a fine as well as reparations, so he would not impose one.

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