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Health and safety charges could follow train derailment

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NETWORK RAIL is likely to face charges under the Health & Safety at Work Act following last weekend's Cumbria train crash, legal experts warned this week.

It may also face civil actions from victims seeking compensation.

However it is thought unlikely that corporate manslaughter charges will be brought against the company or individuals over the death of crash victim Margaret Masson.

'The [Rail Accident Investigation Branch] report is carefully caveated since it is provisional, ' said Mark Tyler, who heads the Health & Safety team at solicitors CMS Cameron McKenna.

'But if it turns out a critical inspection has been missed, then there is potentially a serious breach of health and safety law.' Preliminary conclusions of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch indicate that it would be dif cult for Network Rail to defend its actions, should the Railways Inspectorate prosecute for inadequate maintenance of points, he said.

Tyler added that crash victims would also be able to pursue civil claims, which have lower burdens of proof, and so be more likely to succeed. 'It is pretty clear that someone in the industry will be liable, ' he said.

However, he felt that corporate manslaughter charges were unlikely to stick.

'You have to show that a 'controlling mind' was personally negligent in a very serious way, ' he said.

'It is hard to see what more the directors of Network Rail could personally have done to prevent this accident.' The view was shared by James Price of Farrer & Co solicitors who added: 'The larger the company the more difficult it is to secure a prosecution. Identifying someone is the problem.' Corporate manslaughter charges were either not brought or thrown out by the court following the Hateld, Potter's Bar and Paddington rail crashes.

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