Man charged over fatal M5 pile-up

A man has been charged with manslaughter following a road accident on the M5 last year in which seven people were killed, police said.

Geoffrey Counsell, 50, from Somerset, will face magistrates in Bristol next month accused of seven counts of manslaughter.

Anthony and Pamela Adams, Maggie and Michael Barton, Malcolm Beacham, Terry Brice and Kye Thomas died in the pile-up on the M5, near Taunton, on the night of November 4, 2011. Some 51 people were also injured.

Counsell was operating the firework display at Taunton Rugby Club at the time of the crash.

In a joint statement, Avon and Somerset Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Today the Crown Prosecution Service has authorised Avon and Somerset Police to charge Geoffrey Counsell with seven counts of manslaughter following the deaths of Anthony and Pamela Adams, Maggie and Michael Barton, Malcolm Beacham, Terry Brice and Kye Thomas in a collision on the M5 in November 2011.

"Since the collision we have worked closely together to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the collision and to carefully consider all the evidence. This has been a complex process which has also involved working with Taunton Deane Borough Council and seeking the views of expert witnesses.

"Having considered the evidence in line with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, the CPS decided there was sufficient evidence to charge Geoffrey Counsell, the provider of the fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club on the night of the collision, with manslaughter. The charges are due to his failings in the planning and operation of the display.

"It was clear from the investigation carried out by Avon and Somerset Police that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute for driver error and therefore no action will be taken against any motorists.

"The CPS also considered the culpability of Taunton Rugby Club and reached the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction."

Counsell will appear at Bristol Magistrates' Court on Monday November 12.