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Hatfield charges dropped

Charges brought against three Railtrack executives in the wake of the Hatfield crash were today quashed.

Old Bailey judge Mr Justice Mackay allowed applications from the three - including former Railtrack chief executive Gerald Corbett, now chairman of Woolworths - that the charges should be dropped ahead of the full trial scheduled for October 4.

Balfour Beatty, the rail maintenance firm, and several of its executives at the time of the rail crash in which four people died on October 17, 2000, still face various charges of manslaughter due to gross negligence and offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The judge, giving his ruling on the applications at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, London, quashed Health and Safety Act charges against Mr Corbett.

He also quashed manslaughter charges against Charles Pollard, 45, director of the London North Eastern Zone of Railtrack, and a Health and Safety charge against Christopher Leah, 55, director of safety and operations at Railtrack.

Lawyers acting for Corbett said: "The charge brought against Gerald Corbett relating to the Hatfield rail crash has been dismissed on the grounds that the evidence against him would not be sufficient for a jury properly to convict him.

"The judge held that there was no evidence that Gerald Corbett had consented or connived in any offence allegedly committed by Railtrack.

"Concerning the prosecution allegation of neglect the judge held there was no evidence to support the prosecution case that performance or profit was placed before safety.

"The judge pointed to prosecution evidence that showed Gerald Corbett put safety first.

"The judge also held that the prosecution allegation that nothing effective had been done by Gerald Corbett was not borne out by the prosecution evidence of the events."