Landowner fined £15k after cattle attacks on walkers

A Wiltshire landowner has been fined £15,000 after a series of incidents left footpath users with serious injuries following attacks from cattle.  

Sir Charles Hobhouse, of Monkton Farleigh Estate near Bradford on Avon, pleaded guilty in Taunton Crown Court last week, admitting health and safety failings after two separate incidents occurred in the summer of 2021.

See also: HSE issues advice on protecting walkers this Easter

The first incident involved retired military officer Michael Booley, his wife, Joanne, and friend Josian Gauld.

The walkers climbed over electric fencing blocking the right of way and were subsequently attacked by the cattle in the field.

Mrs Booley suffered a fractured shoulder and ribs.

“I witnessed my wife being relentlessly stamped on and head butted by the cows and at one stage she was not responding.” said Mr Booley.

“I also witnessed my friend desperately trying to find cover behind a tree and fighting the attacking cows with her rucksack as they attacked her from both sides.

“I still have nightmares about it.”

Formal instruction

After the first incident, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Hobhouse had failed to control risks to members of the public, including, where possible, segregating cattle with calves from the public footpath.

Despite a formal instruction to take action to prevent similar incidents, a second attack occurred only weeks later, leaving local builder James Johnson with concussion and several broken bones.

Mr Johnson said: “There were two groups of cows, one of which was running fast towards me and the other coming from a different direction.

“When I realised what was happening, I let the dog go and started to run.

“The cattle ran into me and knocked me onto the ground, where I was trampled, pushed and head butted.

“Every time I attempted to get back up, they pushed me back down.

“Near the end, when I was exhausted and hurt, I fell to the ground one more time and remember thinking ‘this is where I die’.”

Following his guilty plea, Hobhouse was fined in Bristol Crown Court on Thursday 8 June, amounting to £15,000, plus costs of £8,000, for breaching two counts of the Health and Safety at Work Act. 

For HSE’s advice for landowners, visit Cattle and public access in England and Wales (