Published: August 8, 2006
Mother of Lelaina Hall awaits judgment in lawsuit against council

Lelaina HallA legal decision is expected soon over the tragic death of Lelaina Hall at Berrow, near Burnham-On-Sea, in 2002.

The five-year-old drowned when she became trapped in low-tide mud four years ago. The Western Daily Press reports that her family is awaiting judgment in a lawsuit it has brought against Sedgemoor District Council.

The newspaper states that the claim relates to an alleged breach of duty of care, such as a lack of warning signs on the beach to warn families of the danger.

The case began in 2002, before the inquest into Lelaina's death, as the family sought every avenue they could to make sure there could be no repeat of the tragedy.

Lelaina's mother, Caroline Hall, 35, from Worcester, told the newspaper: "I remember my dad was angry about signs, and not being warned. He got in touch with a friend of his who was a solicitor, and he gave some advice."

Ms Hall added: "You feel angry after something like that happens. You look for reasons, and how it could have been prevented."

Since Lelaina's death, warning signs have been installed at Berrow and along the coastline near Burnham-On-Sea, and Ms Hall said this had been a large part of the intention of the legal action. If judgment is given against the council, it may be liable for damages; Ms Hall said, however, this was not the purpose of the case. "There is no compensation that can make up for what has happened," she said.

Despite the lawsuit she said she felt responsible for what happened, and she was not seeking to make the council a scapegoat. "It is not about apportioning blame, but I suppose I feel that more could have been done," she said, adding that she was "not keen" on taking it to the courts. But she felt in this case it might help to protect other lives and improve safety along the coast, and she thinks the legal action has helped drive some of the measures brought in since Lelaina's death.

The issue surrounds duty of care, she said, and whether the council had responsibility for the safety of those using the beach.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Sedgemoor District Council said no comment could be made because legal processes were still "ongoing".

The tragedy of Lelaina's death sparked a campaign to buy a hovercraft to patrol the coastline, and the Spirit of Lelaina is now in its third season of operation, having helped to rescue and help over 90 people.


Burnham-On-Sea hovercraft website


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