Great Western Trains faces 7 counts of manslaughter
A British Train Operating Company (TOC) is to be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter. Great Western Trains has been summonsed over the deaths of 7 passengers who were killed last year in a crash at Southall, west London. The charges, brought by the British Transport Police allege offences of "manslaughter through gross negligence."
Those killed were passengers in a Swansea - Paddington High Speed Train operated by the company on Septamber 20, 1997. It was about 10 minutes from the London terminus and travelling at around 90 mph when it struck an empty freight train that was crossing its path. In addition to the deaths, 147 people were injured. This was the worst rail accident in Britain since the Clapham disaster in 1988.
The charges have been brought following a lengthy investigation into the accident by British Transport Police. A team of BTP detectives, headed by Det. Supt. Graham Satchell has interviewed employees of Great Western and its directors. The driver of the train, Larry Harrison has already been charged with manslaughter is to make a further court appearance on December 4, 1998.
The company is also being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act. The HSE alleges that Great Western "failed to conduct an undertaking, namely the provision of transport by rail to members of the public, in such a way as to ensure that the public were not exposed to risks to their health and safety". Both cases are due to be heard before Ealing Magistrates Court on January 12 1999. If the manslaughter charges succeed, Great Western could face unlimited fines.
A public inquiry into the accident was launched in February under the chairmanship of Prof John Uff QC. It was adjourned pending the outcome of the criminal investigations.
Great Western is owned by a management consortium, FirstBus Plc and 3i Group Plc.
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Position as at 14th December 1998 (HMRI)
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Information from the Health & Safety Executive
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