Hastings council in court over boy's mower death

Hastings District Council has pleaded not guilty to a charge relating to the death of a 4-year-old boy in last year's tractor-mower tragedy.

The council denied the charge at Hastings District Court yesterday, relating to section 15 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, under which employers need to take all practicable steps to ensure that no action or inaction of any employee while at work harms any other person.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of a $250,000 fine.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said the council had entered a not guilty plea to ensure "full discovery" of the case, thus enabling the full disclosure of evidence from the Government's workplace safety agency, WorkSafe, who is prosecuting the council.

Despite the not guilty plea the council still had the ability to change their plea at a later date, he said.

Yesterday's not guilty plea follows last Friday's sentencing of the council tractor driver for driving a vehicle dangerously, causing the death of Uetaha Dahtanian Ransfield-Wanoa.

The tragedy occurred at Kirkpatrick Park in Hastings on October 8, 2013, when Uetaha was run over by the tractor-mower while chasing the machine and playing with two other children, aged 10 and 8.

After entering a guilty plea in May, the driver was sentenced to six months' home detention, 100 hours' community work, disqualified from driving for three years and ordered to pay $5000 reparation.

The 73-year-old driver has interim name suppression after his defence counsel, Andru Isac, appealed against Judge Jonathan Down's decision to drop name suppression.

The council will next appear for a review hearing in September.

- By Sam Hurley of Hawke's Bay Today

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