Prisoner fails in bid to sue after falling off ladders at Blackpool church

St Wilfrid's C of E Church
St Wilfrid's C of E Church
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A prisoner has cost taxpayers thousands in court costs after trying and failing to sue a Blackpool church when he fell off a ladder.

Convict Peter Casson was left bloodied and with ‘broken bones’ after plunging from the ladder while carrying out work during day release from Kirkham Prison at the now-closed St Wilfrid’s Church in Mereside.

He took the church to court seeking compensation - despite signing a form which had forbidden him from even using the ladders. This week, seven years after the accident, his case was finally thrown out by the Court of Appeal.

Margaret Hayhurst, a former member of the church council, who was called to give evidence, told The Gazette today: “It was a very traumatic time for us. We thought we were helping him.”

Justices rejected Casson’s appeal because they “did not believe him”.

Experts say the case will have cost the public purse “tens of thousands of pounds”.

Mrs Hayhurst, 72, said Casson was working alongside several other Kirkham inmates doing gardening at the church’s nearby community centre in Langdale Road – also now closed – when it had to shut for refurbishment.

He was transferred to the church hall as a general handyman in September 2009 and continued to be supervised by community worker Lisa Reid, the court was told.

On Thursday, December 10, Casson fell after climbing the ladders, which the court heard were in good condition, had rubber feet, and were positioned on a floor that was not slippery.

Lord Justice Richards said: “Mr Casson was, he says, clearing cobwebs and dust off a wall using a brush in his right hand, in preparation for painting it, when the ladder slipped and moved from its position.”

Mrs Hayhurst, who was told of the failed appeal in a letter on Tuesday, added: “He had broken bones and he managed to get round to the vicarage covered in blood. When he was falling I think he hit the radiator on the way down.”

The court was told that, although Casson had been seen using shorter step-ladders, he was never seen using the longer ones, which were kept inside the hall.

Casson claimed he had been told to do any DIY task that needed doing, ‘including any painting’, and said he had been shown the ladders by Rev Hudson, evidence which was rejected at the hearing in Liverpool.

“It is said that Mr Casson does not know from the judgement why this was evidence was rejected,” Lord Justice David Roberts said in his judgement.

“The answer is that the recorder did not believe him. It is as simple as that.

“[The recorder] did not find Mr Casson to be a satisfactory witness. Even allowing for the passage of time, he regarded his oral evidence at times unreliable and there were parts of his evidence that he rejected entirely.”

“[Casson] accepted that Ms Reid had told him not to use ladders. He also accepted that he had read and signed a placement memorandum of understanding that stated, among other things, that he was not permitted to use ladders.”

Mrs Hayhurst, who did not say what Casson had been jailed for, added: “I still feel sorry for him because he did hurt himself very badly. I don’t know whether he can work or not. We have had no communication with him.”

A diocese spokesman declined to comment but said the church’s costs may have been covered by insurance.