Fine handed to BT for 19 offences is Council record

British Telecom PLC has been handed a record fine after being found guilty of 19 offences last year.

Somerset County Council is responsible for managing the road network and prosecuted British Telecom PLC as part of its commitment to minimising disruption and keeping the public safe.

The case, heard at North Somerset Magistrates on Tuesday 29 June, was:

Elworthy Barrows, nr Bishops Lydeard and Winsford nr Dulverton

British Telecom PLC was found guilty of 19 offences, which includes:

  • Failing to sign light and guard various worksites on Exmoor contrary to section 65 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (NRSWA 1991).
  • Failing to cooperate with the street authority contrary to section 60 NRSWA 1991.
  • Carrying out street works without a valid permit contrary to regulation 19 of the Traffic Management Permit Scheme (England) Regulations 2007, contrary to section 37 of the Traffic Management Act 2004. Both offences took place on 17 March 2021.

Three offences took place at Elworthy Barrows, nr Bishops Lydeard on 7 July 2020 and at various locations around Winsford near Dulverton between 29 July 2020 and 4 August 2020.

Despite the council issuing a letter of potential prosecution as a result of the situation taking place on 4 August in the Winsford Area and subsequent communications with BT Open Reach, a further incident occurred on 15 August 2020.

Three of the charges concerned the subcontractors deliberately ignoring directions given to them by the street authority.

This was reflected in the fines of £7000.00 imposed by the District Judge for each of these charges. In addition, the District Judge imposed fines of £6000.00 with respect to each of the remaining 16 charges. 

The fines against British Telecom PLC totalled £117,000.00 with costs of £7563.33 and a surcharge of £190.00 awarded against them.

In summing up the judge noted the early guilty pleas, the totality of sentencing principle and the steps the defendants put in place. He observed that if injury or death occurred in a future case sentencing would be on a wholly different basis to this occasion.

Councillor John Woodman, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “We welcome the District Judge’s ruling and want to make it absolutely clear that if you want to work on our highways, you must co-operate with the Highways authority and avoid unnecessary disruption on our roads.

“Despite efforts to liaise with the offenders, it is deeply frustrating to see blatant discard of the applicable rules and regulations which could have had serious repercussions on the health and safety of the public.

“This is the largest fine Somerset County Council has handed out and hope it sends a strong message that we will take action when it is in the public interest to do so.”

Details of approved roadworks can be found on our searchable map at www.travelsomerset.co.uk/roadworks. If anyone is concerned about roadworks they can flag this up to the team by contacting @TravelSomerset on Twitter and Facebook.