Carisbrooke Castle

Mr Taylor (at the time almost 60 years of age) suffered a bad head injury, at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, when he fell into the dry moat in April 2011.

He fell on the informal path leading down the steep slope from the cannon platform. The fall propelled him across the flat, grassed Bastion Walk and then over the sheer face of the bastion wall, a drop of more than 10 feet down into the dry moat.

The castle is managed by VSCG member, English Heritage. They were found to have breached their duty of care under section 2 of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 in failing to protect Mr Taylor, although he was held 50% to blame.

English Heritage appealed against the original judgement on the grounds that anyone contemplating descending the steep slope would be able to see the obvious danger of the sheer drop from the path below down into the dry moat; there was therefore no need to guard against an obvious hazard.

English Heritage was also concerned that a consequence of the original judgement might be a proliferation of unnecessary ugly warning signs on historic sites, contrary to the public interest.

View of the cannon platform. The informal desire-line path can be seen running down the hill from between the cannons. The drop from the top of the stonework to the bottom of the moat is about 10 feet.

The fundamental issue at the appeal was whether anyone contemplating going down the steep slope to the pathway could have seen that there was a sheer drop into the moat. The appeal court reiterated the principle that adult visitors did not require warnings of obvious risk except where they did not have a genuine and informed choice.

However, in this specific case, it was accepted that Mr Taylor was unaware of the risk of falling into the moat. Therefore it would have been reasonable for a warning sign to have been in place on the cannon platform (as there were three other warning signs on the Bastion Walk itself).

Looking down from the cannon platform to the Bastion Walk and hidden drop to the moat.

The judge emphasised that the decision in this case should not be interpreted as requiring occupiers like English Heritage to place unsightly warning signs in prominent positions all over sensitive historic sites. They are required to do no more than take reasonable steps.

Warning sign erected by English Heritage following the judgement.

English Heritage v Taylor (2016) EWCA Civ 448

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This case law entry was written by Ken Dodd and was published in June 2017

This website entry was last updated on 28 August, 2018

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