The popular head of a small village primary is to face a crown court trial after being accused of breaching asbestos regulations at his school.
David Dibb, 54, head of the 161-pupil Westonzoyland Primary, near Bridgwater in Somerset, appeared at Sedgemoor magistrates' court on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty of breaking section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. His case is to be committed to the crown court for trial in November, where he could face a large, technically unlimited fine if found guilty.
Mr Dibb is on leave during the case, although Somerset council says he has not been suspended.
It is believed to be only the second time a head has faced prosecution over asbestos. Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, has warned of the increasing vulnerability of heads in small primaries, as their budgets shrink and health and safety legislation grows.
Asbestos was commonly used as an insulator and fire retardant in the 1960s, but was outlawed in the 1980s after fibres were found to cause mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer.
This summer, Leigh Carlisle, 28, of Oldham, died of the cell-tissue cancer after long-term suspicions that she had contracted it in her primary school in the 1980s.
Safety pitfalls, pages 22-23.