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Expert on a "grey area" for insurance after tragic Bestival death

Expert on a "grey area" for insurance after tragic Bestival death | Insurance Business UK

Expert on a "grey area" for insurance after tragic Bestival death

With the recent ruling in the case of Ceon Broughton, who has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison for manslaughter for the death of his girlfriend, Louella Fletcher-Michie, drugs at festivals are centre stage.

Broughton supplied Fletcher-Michie with the drug 2C-P at the festival Bestival in 2017, and then did not get help for her when she suffered a fatal reaction to the drug.

But when patrons take illegal drugs at a music festival, or hurt themselves while intoxicated, are the festival organisers responsible for what happens? How would insurance get involved? Insurance Business UK decided to investigate.

Paul Twomey (pictured), director of special risks at Gallagher, said that it becomes a somewhat complicated issue because it hasn’t come up a lot.

“There’s some very grey areas about where it all comes in,” he said.

When it comes to a legal product, like alcohol and buying drinks from a licenced bar at a festival, it’s a lot simpler.

“If you take a simple scenario like someone having too much to drink, then if they’ve bought the alcohol on site then obviously that’s their prerogative and what have you,” Twomey explained.

“If they go to the bar and they’re trying to buy more and they’re steaming, then you would expect the bar to not serve them. Then you get to the other extremes which is illegal drugs.”

What is important when it comes to insurance and liability, in all cases, is risk prevention and how festivals look to do all they can to show they are trying to prevent illegal activity, according to Twomey

“It’s interesting because there’s a few festivals that are organised by various companies where they organise the full spectrum,” he said.  

“So, they go from the country type music festival or the jazz type music festival scenario, and they walk all the way up to pop which is aimed more at a younger audience.

“And they have different policies at each of those festivals because there might be a bit of smoking weed at jazz but there doesn’t tend to be any hard drugs, whereas at the pop festivals the rule would be there are drugs present, but probably less alcohol because they’re probably: A, doing more drugs and B, because of the age, because a lot of them are 16, 17.”

What this results in, the risk manager said, is different policies at different festivals, particularly in how security treats people attending.

“You can almost see it in the security and how the security are briefed on how to behave. Whereas at a jazz festival they’ll be keeping a watchful eye, at a pop festival they’ll take some hard tactics,” Twomey explained.

“If they find someone with something, they’ll make a very visible show of removing that person from the premises very quickly.”

But when it comes to the actual insurance, the issue is always liability, and blame - for festival organisers this means if they did anything wrong, if they were at fault or could have prevented what happened.

“Now as to where the blame lies, at the end of the day you can’t stop people bringing drugs into a festival, that’s reality,” Twomey said. “You obviously put signs up saying zero tolerance, and if you’re caught with anything you’ll be removed.”

“But from a liability point of view, which is where the insurers would be involved, they would say as long as you do what you can do, then technically speaking you shouldn’t be held liable.”

When it does come to something unspeakable happening, like a death, Twomey said that he was not aware of a case where insurance was involved—not that it may not happen in the future.

“As far as I’m aware, no festival organiser has been held responsible,” he explained.

“The tragic case with the girl with the Bestival, as far as I’m aware, the festival organisers were not brought into the action. It was obviously his decision to not get her the help that she needed.”