Rail bosses cleared over Hatfield crash

Four people died and 102 were injured when the King's Cross to Leeds train came off the tracks at 115mph on October 17, 2000.

The prosecution alleged the derailment occurred because of a cavalier approach to safety.

The defence argued it was unfair to make the five rail executives scapegoats.

They worked in an under-funded industry which had been neglected by governments for more than 40 years, Jonathan Goldberg QC, defending one of the men, told the court.

The five men had originally faced manslaughter charges - together with the engineering giant Balfour Beatty, the company responsible for track maintenance.

But these were thrown out by the judge, Mr Justice Mackay half way through the trial after legal submissions from the defence.

The decision again highlighted the difficulty of securing convictions of companies for corporate manslaughter under the current legislation.

Long-awaited reform of the law is proposed by the Government but is still at draft stages.

After the company was cleared of corporate manslaughter, Balfour Beatty admitted it had breached safety standards.

But it did not accept all that was alleged against it.

The trial of the five "human" defendants together with Network Rail continued - with all denying any breach of safety laws.

The individual defendants charged were Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Limited's regional director Anthony Walker, 48, Nicholas Jeffries, 50, civil engineer for the same firm, Railtrack North Eastern managers Alistair Cook, 52, and Sean Fugill, 52, and Railtrack LNE track engineer Keith Lea, 55.

The men shook hands with each other and their counsel after they were cleared today at the end of a seven month trial.

Network Rail and Balfour Beatty will be be sentenced on October 3 for the health and safety offences.

The jury of 10 men and one woman had spent 15 hours over four days considering their verdicts.

They had heard the prosecution allege a catalogue of safety lapses in the run-up to the fatal derailment.

* A faulty rail at the crash site which was identified 21 months before the crash but left unrepaired - although a replacement rail had been delivered and left alongside it for six months.

* Speed restrictions were not imposed in the area of that faulty rail.

* A backlog of essential work had been allowed to accumulate which could have closed down King's Cross station if the rule book had been followed.

* The clock which counted the time for carrying out all of the out-of-date repairs was turned back to zero on the backlog of 200 defects in the first 43 miles of the track from King's Cross.

Prosecutor Richard Lissack said that "this cavalier approach to the safety of those in trains" was finally realised on October 17, 2000.

But their lawyers argued they were not to blame.

Mr Goldberg, defending Jeffries, told the jury: "They were all honourable men doing their duty.

"These five men worked in an under-funded, under-invested railway industry, which had been neglected by governments of all parties for over 40 years and which had recently undergone a botched and unworkable privatisation," maintained Mr Goldberg.

"They inherited this awful system and they tried to make it work for the benefit of the travelling public but they did not invent it.

"It is a sad reflection on political correctness and the blame culture of modern- day Britain that five men at modest job levels are blamed for Hatfield whilst the concerned and grieving relatives and the Press and public are fed the line that the buck stops with them."

Railtrack had denied breaching its health and safety duty.

Nigel Sweeney QC, representing the company, said it had warned contractors Balfour Beatty that checks on problem lines should be stepped up before the crash.

He said that Railtrack had no obligations to double-scrutinise in detail the maintenance carried out by an independent contractor.

The company had taken reasonable steps to manage the problems it faced, he argued.

The Hatfield crash victims were Steve Arthur, 46, from Pease Pottage, West Sussex; Peter Monkhouse, 50, of Headingley, Leeds; Leslie Gray, 43, of Tuxford, Nottingham; and Robert James Alcorn, 37, of Auckland, New Zealand.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week