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Acquitted Hatfield engineer 'sacked' by Network Rail

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ACQUITTED HATFIELD engineer Nick Jeffries this week claimed he had been sacked by Network Rail for speaking about his trial ordeal.

He alleges that his contract was terminated because he spoke to NCE about his personal experiences without first gaining permission from his employer.

Jeffries has now instructed solicitor Edwards Duthie to bring proceedings against Network Rail concerning the manner and circumstances of his dismissal. Papers were sent to the Employment Tribunal Service last week.

Jeffries was acquitted of all charges relating to his role in the October 2000 Hatfield rail crash last September after an eight month trial (NCE 8 September 2005). At the time he was working as a civil engineer for track maintenance contractor Balfour Beatty.

He, along with four other engineers who were also acquitted, had been charged with manslaughter and health and safety violations.

Network Rail and Jeffries' then employer Balfour Beatty were found guilty of health and safety breaches and were handed record fines totalling £13.5M.

Following the trial Jeffries told of his personal experiences in an interview with NCE (NCE 13 October 2005).

In the interview he was critical of the Crown Prosecution Service for its decision to prosecute, but said little about his employers other than to express gratitude for support he had received during the trial.

It is his case that six days after the interview was published, he was summoned to Network Rail's head office in London and told he was to be dismissed for speaking to NCE without permission.

He was told that further communication would be through Network Rail's lawyers.

In a statement Jeffries' solicitor Shaun Murphy described the conduct of Network Rail as 'nothing short of extraordinary'.

'Jeffries was doing no more than exercising his freedom of speech on a matter of public interest, in circumstances which were plainly justifiable.

'Network Rail has also ignored its disciplinary procedures which should apply to all of its employees.

'Network Rail has been asked to confi m and explain its decision in writing to ourselves. They have refused to do so, despite the legal obligation on an employer to give written reasons under the Employment Rights Act 1996.' In a statement, Network Rail confi med that Jeffries left the company in November 2005.

It said: 'The reason for his departure is a personal issue that we consider to be a confi dential matter.

'We have fully supported Jeffries through a long and diffi lt trial, offering him and his family all the help and assistance possible, ' it said, adding: 'We wish him all the best for the future.'

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