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David Bergman, Director of the CCA said:

"The decision to prosecute two large companies over the Hatfield disaster is very significant.

It is very rare for the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute a large company for manslaughter. There have only ever been five companies convicted of manslaughter - all of which have been small companies. [To see more about previous prosecutions and convictions, click here]

This is because the law requires that a company director or senior manager is prosecuted as an individual for the offence, before the company - a separate legal entity - can be prosecuted.

It is therefore necessary to have sufficient evidence to prosecute a director or senior manager of the company before the company itself can be prosecuted.

It is difficult to prosecute directors or senior managers of large companies - even though there may be some very serious failures on the part of the company or individuals for a number of reasons including:

the law does not impose any positive duty upon company directors to take action to ensure that their company complies with health and safety law;
in large companies, safety responsibilities can be diffuse and shared amongst amongst a number of different managers and directors;

There have only ever been two large companies that have been prosecuted for manslaughter - both of which failed:

P&O European Ferries over the Zeebrugge Disaster which killed 192 people in 1997. The trial collapsed at its early stages when the Judge ruled there was insufficient evidence against any director or senior manager
Great Western Railways over the Southall Train Crash which killed 7 people in 1997. The CPS tried to prosecute the company without prosecuting any individual director or manager. The court ruled that the case could not go ahead on this basis. "

Four people died in the crash on October 17, 2000: Robert Alcorn, Stephan Arthur, Leslie Gray and Paul Monkhouse. One hundred and two other passengers and staff suffered injuries of varying severity.

Two companies have received summonses for offences of manslaughter:

Network Rail Infrastructure Limited formerly Railtrack plc (owner and manager of the rail infrastructure);
Balfour Beatty Rail Infrastructure Services Limited formerly Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Limited (the infrastructure maintenance contractor to Railtrack plc for this part of the East Coast Main Line).

The following individuals have been

Charles Nicholas Pollard (Director of the London North East Zone of Railtrack plc)
Alistair Cook (Infrastructure Contracts Manager of the London North East Zone of Railtrack plc)
Sean Brett Fugill (Area Asset Manager of the London North East Zone (South) of Railtrack plc)
Anthony Robin Walker (Regional Director until 11 August 2000 of Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Limited)
Nicholas Paul Jeffries (Civil Engineer for Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Limited)

The CPS have also said that a further employee of Railtrack plc is expected to be charged this afternoon.

To read about previous prosecutions and convictions of companies and directors of manslaughter, click here. Please note that
To read about government proposals to reform the law of manslaughter, click here.
To download the CPS Press release relating to their decision to charge the two companies and six individuals over the Hatfield disaster, click here (word document)


To contact the CCA, call 020 7 490 4494


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Page last updated on January 11, 2004