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THANET DC TO PAY COMPENSATION TO CRIPPLED DIVER

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A swimmer left paralysed from the neck down after a horrific seaside diving accident is set to win damages of over ...
A swimmer left paralysed from the neck down after a horrific seaside diving accident is set to win damages of over o100,000 from Thanet DC which had failed to erect a sign warning of the danger.

Tragic Edward Harrison was just 25-years-old when the accident which wrecked his life took place on August 20, 1989.

On holiday in Margate, Kent, with two friends, the carpenter from Northern Ireland dived into the sea from the edge of the Westbrook Promenade on one of the hottest days of the year.

But just over two feet beneath the surface of the water was a concrete shelf and, entering the water from a seven-foot dive, Mr Harrison smashed into it, instantly breaking his neck.

After the accident Mr Harrison, now 33, was left so badly injured he had to leave his home at (56) Enaugh Park, Limavady, near Londonderry, to live in England where he could receive the specialist care he needs.

Now living at a Cheshire Home in Church Road, Brampton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, he launched legal action against the council responsible for the Margate coast - Thanet District Council - claiming the tragedy would never have happened if only the authority had erected a sign to warn of the danger.

But the authority denied liability, arguing Mr Harrison had only himself to blame for the accident and he should have realised it was unsafe to dive from the railed promenade.

After a week-long trial in London's High Court, Mr Harrison is set to receive a compensation pay-out of over pnds 100,000 after Deputy Judge Daniel Brennan QC ruled the council was partly responsible for the accident.But because he ruled Mr Harrison was himself at fault, describing the dive as 'foolhardy to a degree', the amount of damages he will finally receive are to be slashed by two-thirds.

During the trial the court heard water safety officers from the council describe how they carried out daily inspections along the authority's 22-mile stretch of coast but had never spotted anyone either jumping or diving from Westbrook Promenade.

But several local residents said they had seen people jumping and diving from the promenade over the years and a video shot by private detectives acting for Mr Harrison's lawyers showed one swimmer leaping into the water from the promenade.

Today Judge Brennan said he was satisfied there had been jumping and 'occasional diving' from the promenade.

He told the court: 'I find the local authority did not know of the use of Westbrook Bay for swimming, jumping and diving.

'The authority should have had an inspection system and an assessment system which not only led to discovery of these activities but assessment of the risk attached to such activities.

'They fell down in both regards.

'And the signing that was in place was ineffective to warn against the activities of swimming, jumping and diving.

'It was not enough to meet a danger of which I find the local authority should have been aware.'

Judge Brennan added Thanet District Council had 'clearly in many ways done its bestin the field of water safety' and he had 'no doubt of the good will and intent of particular employees.'

But he went on to say: 'I am in no doubt that in this particular area of Westbrook Bay they were guilty of a breach of duty.'

However, having found the council partly responsible, the judge then told the court Mr Harrison had still been more at fault.

He said: 'He is not exculpated from contributory negligence. He was diving from the far side of the railings acting as a barrier to the seaside and the sea.

'He was a stranger to the area and did not know the depth of the sea. Neither did he ask anybody. He simply dived in.

'It clearly was careless of his own safety to a foolhardy degree.'

After the judge assessed the council as one-third to blame and Mr Harrison as two-thirds to blame he ordered the council should pay him an advance damages award of o100,000 while he waits for the lawyers for both sides to assess the final amount he will receive.

The cash is to be used to buy Mr Harrison, who is engaged to be married, a home suited to his disabilities, a car and a new computer system.

The council is considering whether to launch an appeal against the ruling.

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