Drunk on railway line escapes jail

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The Independent Online

A drunk man who caused travel chaos after passing out with his head on a railway line escaped jail today.

Former company director Kevin Craswell, 48, was heard snoring as he lay sprawled across the tracks with his feet just inches from the live rail.

Staff were forced to switch off the power to the line, near Epsom, in Surrey, causing delays for thousands of people on four routes.

The alcoholic faced up to six months in prison when he appeared in court today after admitting obstructing the railway by neglect.

But magistrate Ron Fewtrell said although he was aware of the potential risk to rail users, he did not believe Craswell intended to harm people.

He ordered the defendant to undertake a community service, a community order and to pay compensation to the rail company.

Craswell, who wore a dark suit and tie, declined to comment as he left Redhill Magistrates' Court.

But his father, who declined to be named, said there should have been barriers to prevent him getting on the line.

After the hearing, Pc Graham Cottington, of British Transport Police, said staff were "astounded" that someone could do something so stupid.

He said: "If he had moved his leg one foot, he would have touched the live rail and there's 750 volts going through that rail. If he had touched that live rail, he would certainly have died."

He added: "It is amazing that he's actually survived the incident. I have been in the police for 12 years but I have never seen anything like this before."

Pc Cottington said alcohol was responsible for many tragic accidents on the railways and the prosecution "sent a message" to other people who may put themselves and others in danger.

Speaking about the comment by Craswell's father, he said it was not practical to fence off every stretch of railway and emergency services also needed access.

The court heard that Craswell, who lives with his elderly parents in Ashtead, Surrey, could not explain his actions.

Prosecutor Nina Monty said Craswell was "considerably under the influence of alcohol" when staff found him.

She said trains were delayed for at least 20 minutes, causing delays at the beginning of the Friday afternoon commuter rush hour.

A police helicopter recorded footage of Craswell sprawled across the track with his head resting on one of the rails.

Ms Monty said Craswell was later admitted to hospital suffering hypothermia. She said: "It's fair to say that when released he simply stated that he could remember very little about the incident due to the fact that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time."

Craswell's solicitor Philip Longes said his client, now a recovering alcoholic, had no memory of how he got into the "bizarre situation".

He said: "There have been an unfortunate sequence of circumstances that have flowed from his problems with alcohol.

"He's lost his family, he's lost his home, he's lost his job and he's lost his self esteem. He has sunk to the bottom."

He added: "So far as this incident is concerned he has no memory of it. He is thoroughly and utterly ashamed of his conduct.

"He has already received public humiliation on this matter because of the publicity it has attracted."

Craswell was ordered to undertake an 18-month supervision order and 180 hours of community service. He was also told to pay the rail company compensation of £560.

The incident near Epsom station, in Surrey, took place on March 3 this year at about 3.30pm.

Police said it affected four railway lines and cost almost £8,000 in delays as trains were stopped and the power to lines switched off.