Coroner calls for ‘fly-grazing’ ban after Soham driver’s death in collision with stray horses on A14

PUBLISHED: 15:34 10 April 2014 | UPDATED: 15:34 10 April 2014

Thomas Allen, who was killed after a crash on the A14 caused by horses belonging to Humphrys

Thomas Allen, who was killed after a crash on the A14 caused by horses belonging to Humphrys

Archant

A coroner has called for new laws to be passed after a young driver was killed in a collision with stray horses on the A14.

The car damaged when horses strayed onto the A14 at Sproughton on Christmas Eve The car damaged when horses strayed onto the A14 at Sproughton on Christmas Eve

Thomas Allen, 23, from Soham, suffered fatal brain injuries when he crashed into the escaped animals near Sproughton while driving home on Christmas Eve to be with his family.

An inquest, held last Wednesday, in Ipswich, was told the horses were regularly seen roaming loose on roads in the area, having been left to “fly-graze” on land without the owner’s permission.

Suffolk coroner Peter Dean described the tragedy as an “accident waiting to happen” and called for fly-grazing to be made illegal to prevent a recurrence of the incident.

“It’s very clear that what took place was an awful tragedy,” he said.

“There had been numerous reports of horses on the loose on or near the road or in locations where the potential for an accident was always there.”

The horses’ owner, Stacy Humphrys, 27, of West Meadows, Ipswich, was jailed for 28 months on March 13, after admitting a public nuisance offence by allowing his animals to stray.

Pc Jeffrey Cribb, giving evidence to the inquest, said Humphrys had been grazing his horses on a sugar beet site without the owner’s permission and that the practice, though legal, was a “national problem”.

Referring to a report from the National Farmers’ Union, Dr Dean said there had been calls for Parliament to make fly-grazing a criminal offence.

“The picture here seems to be a recurring problem with potential deficiencies in the legislation that might have enabled it to have been dealt with more swiftly,” he said.

Dr Dean, recording a verdict of accidental death, said he would write to police forces and local authorities to “ensure sufficient priority is given to the problem”.

He will also write to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asking for fly-grazing to be made a criminal office.

Mr Allen had been travelling with his girlfriend on the evening of Christmas Eve 2012 when the crash happened.

Pc Cribb, a forensic collision investigator with Suffolk Constabulary, said the car was “heavily damaged” by the collision, which left three horses dead.

Dr Dean offered his condolences to the family “and all touched by this loss in these very sad circumstances”.

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