DAC secures swimmers’ right to use Hampstead Heath pond

Davies Arnold Cooper (DAC) has secured an important victory for the Hampstead Heath Winter Swimming Club in its case to swim in the Mixed Pond on Hampstead Heath unattended by a lifeguard.

In July 2004, the Hampstead Heath Management Committee – a sub-committee of the Corporation of London – passed a resolution that the swimmers’ request for self-regulated, early morning swimming in the pond be refused.

Prior to Mr Justice Burton’s decision, there was the risk that, in case of an accident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) could prosecute the Corporation of London. The judgment means that the corporation would not now face prosecution.

Litigation partner John Bramhall at DAC, who joined the firm in December 2004 from Shook Hardy & Bacon, acted for the swimming club. “It was rewarding, in the current health and safety climate, to see a judge protect the individual’s right to take risks,” said Bramhall.

Catherine McGuinness, chairman of the Hampstead Heath Management Committee, said: “We’re pleased that we have this clarification of the law that the HSE has refused to provide in the past. The next step is for both sides to agree a declaration which will define more clearly the basis on which swimming can take place without health and safety legislation coming into play.”

In his judgment, Judge Burton said open spaces such as Hampstead Heath were the “lungs of London” and should be celebrated.

“Risk is inherent in life; and some risk is unavoidable,” he said.