At the start of the trial of Great Western Trains (GWT) on charges of Corporate Manslaughter a judge has told the Crown Prosecution Service that it would be unsafe to proceed with the prosecution.
The charges relate to the deaths of 7 people in an accident involving a GWT train at Southall, West London on 19 September 1997. The Inter City 125 high speed train, travelling at around 90 mph collided with an empty freight train that was crossing its path.
At the hearing at the Old Bailey yesterday, Mr Justice Scott-Baker told the prosecution that there were few precedents for the prosecution of a corporate body for manslaughter. In a lengthy ruling lasting over one hour he explained that rulings in earlier cases showed up weaknesses in identifying the "entity" who was to be prosecuted. The Judge identified the possibilities available in this case:
(a) Prosecution on all counts on the failure of the duty to ensure the safety of the 7 passengers
(b) Identification of a senior individual in GWT who was considered to be the 'directing mind' and who was considered to negligent
(c) Identification of more than one individual in GWT who were considered to collectively form the 'directing mind' and who were negligent
The Judge agreed to a prosecution request for an adjournment until 2 July 1999 in order to consider how to proceed.
GWT trains is also facing separate charges under health and safety legislation and the driver of the train is being prosected for manslaughter. An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive into the accident has been held up for almost two years awaiting the prosecution.
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