River Webster suffered a cracked skull and bleeding on the brain when the flagpole fell on her last year

Crushed: River Webster suffered a cracked skull and bleeding on the brain when the flagpole fell on her last year

A council ignored repeated warnings about a rotten flagpole before it collapsed and crushed a toddler, a court heard.

River Webster, who was two years old at the time, suffered a cracked skull, bleeding on the brain and a double ankle fracture when the 18ft pole fell on her on March 31 last year.

She was playing in a memorial garden in Otley, West Yorkshire with mother Charlotte Hodge when the rotten pole knocked her to the ground.

River, now three years old, faces regular x-rays and health checks until she is at least five.

Prosecutor Adam Birkby said: 'The flagpole was not secured with brackets and River was running towards her mother when the flagpole collapsed and struck her on the top of her head, causing her to spin sideways and fall to the floor.

'Ms Hodge describes how her daughter did not lose consciousness and River's eyes were open but her pupils were tiny pinpricks.'

Leeds City Council accepted they had breached health and safety law when they failed to inspect the flagpole after they were warned on 'a number of occasions' that it was rotten.

Sentencing at Leeds Crown Court on Friday, Judge Neil Clark said: 'River was seriously injured and there was knowledge within the authority for 18 months prior to the incident that the flagpole needed repair.'

The authority was first informed about the rotting flagpole in November 2010, when a gardener employed by the council informed them of the problem.

Leeds City Council pleaded guilty to breaching Health and Safety laws and have issued an apology to the girl's family.

 The flagpole that hit River Webster as she was playing in the garden

Rotten: The flagpole that hit River Webster as she was playing in the garden

 

Visitors and staff at Otley Memorial Garden told Leeds County Council repeatedly that the pole was dangerous

Warnings: Visitors and staff at Otley Memorial Garden told Leeds County Council repeatedly that the pole was dangerous

Defending the council, David Hercock, said: 'Flagpoles are now regularly inspected to ensure this does not happen again.'

Leeds City Council was fined £12,000 for the health and safety breach and was ordered to pay £6,000 in costs.

Ms Hodge was disappointed with the result. She said: 'I would have rather seen whoever was responsible lose their job.'