17 years on - justice for ASLEF man convicted of manslaughter

12 December 2007

This morning the Court of Appeal quashed a train driver’s 17 year old conviction for manslaughter.


Bob Morgan - a train driver and ASLEF member - was convicted of two counts of manslaughter on 3 September 1990. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail, of which 12 were suspended, after he had admitted passing signal T168 while it was red – an event which contributed to the Purley train crash of 4 March 1989.


However, the original conviction had not taken into proper account the fact that this signal was dangerous. It had been passed at danger on four previous occasions - by different drivers – between 16 October 1984 and the Purley tragedy. This occurred again on 6 June 1991. Since the fault with the signalling has been remedied, no trains have passed T168 at danger. At the trial neither the prosecution nor the defence were aware that signal T168 was a ‘multi-SPAD’ (regularly passed at danger) signal – which is why Bob was advised to plead guilty. Today a signal with this history would be immediately assessed for risk and action would be taken to remedy the danger. This did not happen in 1989.


The accident happened at 13:39 when Bob Morgan’s train, travelling from Littlehampton to London, crashed into the back of a train travelling from Horsham to London. The Littlehampton train careered off the track, down the embankment into gardens below. 6 people died and 80 were injured.


ASLEF general secretary Keith Norman, said he was proud that the union had stood by Bob Morgan throughout his 17-year ordeal, and said, ‘ I am delighted that Bob has been vindicated. It was important not only for his peace of mind and reputation, but for all other UK train drivers. Today’s verdict should ensure that no train driver in the future will have to face such a terrible ordeal.


‘We have established that where safety issues – like badly sited and unsafe signals – contribute to an accident, the driver will never again be the single person held to account – which is what happened in Bob’s case.


‘Over a period of several years, drivers found it difficult to see the signal in question – a fact proven by the number of different drivers who passed it signalled at danger.


‘The tragedy for Bob and his family was that no one in management admitted their inefficiency or neglect. Instead, they slunk away, happy to leave Bob to carry the can for them all. There was no consideration of corporate responsibility – simply the desire by managers to escape blame by pointing a finger at an individual. Bob paid the price for the inefficiency and carelessness of layer upon layer of management.


‘We can never undo the harm Bob has endured - but we can admire the dignity with which he bore the burden of the last 17 years.’



Media enquiries should be referred to the union’s press officer Chris Proctor on 07714 504 410 (mobile) or

020 7317 8607 (direct)

Back »

By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information please refer to ASLEF’s Privacy Policy