Company and executives in court over rail crash deaths

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The Independent Online

A major engineering company and five rail executives were accused today of gross negligence which allegedly resulted in the deaths of four people in the Hatfield rail crash.

A major engineering company and five rail executives were accused today of gross negligence which allegedly resulted in the deaths of four people in the Hatfield rail crash.

Balfour Beatty face a corporate manslaughter charge and the five executives are accused in a trial which is expected to last up to a year.

Before the case was formally opened in London today, Mr Justice Mackay asked the jury to look at a list of witnesses to make sure they did not know any of them.

The 31-page indictment was then read out to them before the case could be opened by the prosecuting counsel Richard Lissack QC.

But as the defendants stood to acknowledge their names and the charges read out, there was a sudden power failure in the large modern courtroom.

Lighting was restored minutes later and proceedings continued.

The courtroom was lined with files. Laptop computers punctuated each line of lawyers' desks.

The jurors also have computer screens.

The judge warned the jury it is essential that they try the case only on the evidence they hear in court.

The five men in the dock are Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Ltd's regional director Anthony Walker, 46, and civil engineer Nicholas Jeffries, 53, Railtrack London North East loan asset managers Alistair Cook, 50, and Sean Fugill, 50, and Railtrack LNE track engineer Keith Lea, 53.

The company faces a corporate manslaughter charge and Network Rail faces health and safety charges.

The crash occurred when a London to Leeds express was derailed at 115mph by a cracked section of rail in October 2000.

The company and the five men deny the charges against them.

The manslaughter charges allege breach of duty amounting to gross negligence which materially contributed to the deaths.

The four who died were Steve Arthur, 46, of Pease Pottage, West Sussex; Peter Monkhouse, 50, of Headingley, Leeds; Leslie Gray, 43, of Tuxford, Nottingham, and Robert Alcorn, 37, of Auckland, New Zealand.

The healthy and safety charges allege a failure to take reasonable care for the safety of passengers travelling on the line.