Man killed and another seriously injured by cows

A farmer based near Bradford on Avon, has been fined after two members of the public were attacked and injured, one fatally, by cows in a field.

Swindon Crown Court heard how brothers Mike and John Porter were walking on a public footpath which went through a field where cows with calves were grazing. The cows belonged to local farmer Brian Godwin.

The brothers had with them two dogs on leads when they were attacked by the cows. The incident was the fourth in five years involving injuries to members of the public caused by Mr Godwin’s cattle.

Mike Porter, 66, from Edinburgh suffered fatal internal bleeding from crush injuries caused by cattle trampling him. His elder brother John Porter, 73, who lives near Bath suffered multiple rib fractures, a punctured lung and general contusions, but survived.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred on 13 May 2013 found the farmer had not taken reasonable precautions to protect members of the public walking on footpaths through his fields from his cattle. Where livestock are judged to present a risk to walkers, they should be segregated by fencing or kept in fields without footpaths.

The cattle may have attacked the walkers because they perceived a risk to their calves from the men and their dogs.

Between April 2000 and March 2015 there were 18 fatalities to members of the public involving cattle. Most of these incident involved cows with calves, and dogs.

Brian Arthur Godwin, of Timothy Rise Farm, Winsley Rise, Limpley Stoke, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was given a 12 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years, ordered to pay costs of £30,000.

HSE inspector Dawn Lawrence said after the hearing: “Farmers and landowners have a legal duty to assess the risks from livestock to people using any rights of way on their land, and to take all reasonable precautions.

“Wherever possible farmers should avoid keeping cows with calves in fields with public footpaths. If that is impossible, and they need to keep cattle and walkers apart, temporary fencing is easy and cheap to provide.”

Also speaking after the hearing, Mike Porter’s long-term partner Adrienne Sillar said “our family and friends have spent the last three and a half years trying to turn the tragedy of Mike’s death into a positive outcome. While nothing will bring Mike back to us, we hope that this important case can serve to highlight the issues associated with the safety of the public using rights of way when livestock are present.  Mike’s death was avoidable, and our hope is that no-one else should run the risk of injury or death when enjoying the countryside responsibly”.

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Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at:
  3. HSE news releases are available at


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