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Silent Hatfield defendants 'had no answers' says prosecution


FOUR OF the defendants who chose not to give evidence to the Hatfield rail crash trial knew they had no satisfactory explanation to give, the prosecution said this week.

Only former Balfour Beatty civil engineer Nicholas Jeffries took the stand to personally defend his not guilty plea arising from charges of breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act.

Network Rail asset manager Alistair Cook, area asset manager Sean Fugill, track engineer Keith Lea, former Balfour Beatty regional director Anthony Walker and the company Network Rail also plead not guilty to breaches of same act before October 2000's fatal derailment.

In his closing address, prosecutor Richard Lissack QC told the Old Bailey jury: 'They all know the questions they would face and they all know they had no answer.

'As to the fifth, you might feel he had to give evidence but in doing so his guilt has been starkly revealed.' The accused engineers' role in a plan to tackle a build-up of defects on the East Coast Main Line is central to the prosecution case.

Lissack said that following a June 2000 meeting with Walker, for which there are no minutes, Lea granted permission for Balfour Beatty to work outside railway standards to rectify the backlog without informing Railtrack headquarters.

In September Lea wrote a letter, which was never sent, expressing doubts about the dispensation.

'Was it because he knew progress was woefully slow and the risk was being constantly extended through the course of action he had sanctioned-' asked Lissack.

He added that Cook and Fugill both knew of problems with track maintenance but made no enquiries to check the recovery, suggesting Fugill was 'overcome with inertia'.

Lissack said Jeffries was brought in to oversee the recovery plan.

But he added: 'He did nothing that he should have done by way of independent validation.

It was pretty shoddy work.' Manslaughter charges against the men were dropped earlier this month (News last week) and Balfour Beatty admitted breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act.

Defence closing speeches were expected to continue this week.

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