A SCHOOL caretaker has won his case against Hampshire County Council after he fell off a stepladder.

Pensioner Anthony Gower-Smith, 73, sued for £50,000 damages for injuries he suffered when he fell off the 6ft ladder in January 2004 as he took a card display and staples off a wall in a school hall in Romsey.

He claimed that his employer, the council, did not show him how to safely use the ladder and that it was not suitable equipment for him to use.

Recorder Christopher Moger QC, who heard the case recently at Winchester County Court, today announced that Mr Gower-Smith's case had been successful.

Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, he ruled that the council had been 75 per cent responsible for the injuries he suffered.

The amount of damages will be assessed at a later date.

The accident happened at Awbridge Primary School and Mr Gower-Smith, of Sylvan Drive, North Baddesley, has not been able to work since.

Mr Gower-Smith claimed he was only told not to stand on the ladder's top platform step and not to work at higher than 3m.

The judge heard that Mr Gower-Smith suffered a fractured skull, fractured cheek bone and trauma to a kidney in the fall. He needed treatment in intensive care at Southampton General Hospital.

But the council denied negligence and said the caretaker was given adequate training and equipment to do the job.

The authority said there was a structured course on how to use the ladder and Mr Gower-Smith had signed an induction training sheet in October 2002 when he started the job to indicate he had received training in the safe use of stepladders.

A health and safety report at the time said the council was not at fault.

Councillor David Kirk, Hampshire County Council's executive lead member for children's services, said: "While we are very sorry that an accident happened to Mr Gower-Smith while he was in our employment the county council is also extremely surprised and disappointed today with the court's verdict.

"While the judge acknowledged training had been given to Mr Gower-Smith he found that there was insufficient emphasis placed on the positioning of the step ladder even though this guidance is in our manual which is routinely reviewed to reflect new HSE regulations.

"Hampshire County Council takes health and safety very seriously and last year we were among a number of local authorities who signed up to the HSE's sensible risk campaign which aims to balance benefits and risks with a focus on reducing real risks. The campaign is also about enabling individuals to understand that as well as the right to protection, they also have to exercise responsibility."