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Criminal proceedings begin for Potters Bar

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has started criminal proceedings against Network Rail and Jarvis Rail for breaches of health and safety law which caused the Potters Bar derailment.

But the firms will not face manslaughter charges because the case would have to be tried under the old corporate manslaughter law.

The prosecutions come four months after an inquest ruled that seven people died in the 2002 rail crash because an unsafe set of points failed (NCE 5 August).

The inquest jury ruled that there were failures of inspection and/or maintenance of the points in the period before the crash.

Network Rail and Jarvis Rail are both facing a charge under section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA).

This results from their failure, as infrastructure controller and contractor, to provide and implement suitable and sufficient training, standards, procedures and guidance for the installation, maintenance and inspection of adjustable stretcher bars.

The ORR’s decision to prosecute comes five years after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided there was no realistic prospect of conviction for an offence of gross negligence manslaughter against any individual or corporation arising from the Potters Bar incident.

Last month the CPS informed the ORR that it had decided that there were no grounds for it to reconsider its decision of October 2005.

Attempts by the CPS to bring similar charges against individuals and companies held responsible for the 2000 Hatfield rail crash failed.

The failure of such a high profile case led in part to the introduction of a new Corporate Manslaughter law, but this can only be applied to deaths after April 2008.
The first appearance is due to take place at Watford Magistrates’ Court on 7 January at 11am.

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