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Hatfield defendants are 'scapegoats' for crash

News

NONE OF the fi ve men charged with manslaughter can be blamed for the Hatfield rail crash, a defence barrister told the Old Bailey said this week.

Jonathan Goldberg QC told the jury that the men were being made scapegoats for October 2000's tragedy.

Speaking on behalf of Balfour Beatty civil engineer Nicholas Jeffries, he said the case would also discourage other engineers working on the rail industry.

Four passengers were killed and 102 injured when an intercity express derailed between Welham Green and Hatfield after a rail shattered beneath the train.

But Goldberg said the five men were on relatively modest salaries and tried to make the best of an 'awful system' under which the railways were run following privatisation.

'Put in military terms, you see in this court five lieutenants accused of losing the entire war.

'These fi e infantrymen are court martialled, but the civil servants, the politicians, the men with knighthoods who created the dysfunctional system go scot-free.

'It leads to an attitude of 'why should I ever exercise any independent judgement or take any personal risk when I could be in the dock if anything were to go wrong-' and so you get placemen and timeservers instead.' Also this week, Balfour Beatty's barrister Ronald Thwaites QC said the wrong type of rail, made of specially hardened steel, was used at the crash site.

'It turned out that it could not carry the traffi c load for more than a quarter of its life expectancy, ' he said, adding that steel of this kind is no longer used on curves such as that at the Welham Green crash site.

Barristers for Railtrack managers Alistair Cook and Sean Fugill (see box) said they were not told of the true condition of the track.

The case continues.

INFOPLUS For daily court reports visit: www. nceplus. co. uk

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