Hatfield shows need for action on corporate manslaughter, says union leader

06 September 2005

Keith Norman, General Secretary of ASLEF, said that today’s decision to clear executives of all blame for the Hatfield rail disaster ‘defied logic and distorted compassion.’

He says that the court appeared to have more concern for the five executives than the four dead.

‘The defence argued it was unfair to make the five rail executives scapegoats. What about the families of those who died? Have they not been made scapegoats for a cavalier attitude towards safety?"

‘If this crash been caused by the driver of the train failing in his duties, he would have been pilloried in the media from now till Doomsday. Yet when senior managers fail in their obligations, they walk away as innocent as angels".

‘It is clearly an injustice that needs to be addressed urgently. The government has dilly-dallied long enough on this issue. In all justice to the four people who died at Hatfield and the 102 who were injured, we must have urgent and comprehensive laws covering management’s responsibility in these cases".

‘Corporate manslaughter is a crime. It differs from other crimes because it is not punished. This must be rectified as a matter of urgency as soon as Parliament reassembles.’


Network Rail was today convicted of breaking safety rules before the Hatfield rail disaster. But five railway executives charged in connection with the crash were cleared at the Old Bailey. Network Rail and Balfour Beatty will be be sentenced on October 3 for the health and safety offences.


The prosecution alleged a catalogue of safety lapses in the run-up to the fatal derailment including:

  • A faulty rail at the crash site which was identified 21 months before the crash but left unrepaired - although a replacement rail had been delivered and left alongside it for six months.
  • Speed restrictions were not imposed in the area of that faulty rail.
  • A backlog of essential work had been allowed to accumulate which could have closed down King"s Cross station if the rule book had been followed.
  • The clock which counted the time for carrying out all of the out-of-date repairs was turned back to zero on the backlog of 200 defects in the first 43 miles of the track from King"s Cross.
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