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March 18, 2011

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Maintenance firm escapes Potters Bar trial

A health and safety charge against rail-infrastructure contractor Jarvis Rail Ltd over the Potters Bar derailment in 2002 has been dropped.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) confirmed today (18 March) that it would not proceed with the prosecution of the company, which had been charged under section 3(1) of the HSWA 1974, because it feels a trial is not now in the public interest.

The ORR believes there is sufficient evidence for a successful conviction, and that the company’s performance in its role as maintenance contractor for the Potters Bar area of the rail network fell far short of what should be expected. However, it has concluded that a trial of Jarvis alone would be lengthy, costly and likely to lead to only a small fine.

Network Rail has already pleaded guilty to a s3 health and safety charge for its role in the incident, which killed seven people and injured 70. The rail operator is due to appear at St Albans Crown Court on 30 March, when a date for sentencing should be set.

Jarvis Rail’s administrators have confirmed that the company is insolvent and would take no part in any proceedings. There would therefore be no defence representatives in court, no defence lawyers, and no cross-examination of witnesses.

Any trial would not have taken place until this autumn at the earliest, and as Network Rail could not be sentenced until the conclusion of such proceedings, the continued prosecution of Jarvis would have delayed the sentencing of the rail operator.

Significantly, said the ORR, a number of members of the victims’ families also considered that, in light of Jarvis’s administration, there would be little value in prosecuting the firm. In addition, the ORR considered that the costs in both time and money, which would be borne by a number of parties, would not be recoverable.

Overall, the ORR felt that the “changed nature of the proceedings” since prosecution charges were first brought, and the issues arising from this altered nature, “weighed strongly against continuing prosecution”.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, described the decision to drop the charge against Jarvis as a travesty. He said: “It is scandalous that it took eight years to get an inquest verdict that confirmed that Potters Bar could have been avoided if safety had been put ahead of profits.€

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13 years ago

ASLEF has the funds to press this case. Also the Insurance company that Jarvis rail used are libal as the company was coverd by them The company was still active at the time of the incident.
Alan D Holmes

13 years ago

Alan, you are mixing law. ORR is a criminal prosecution where funds must come from the company NOT insurers and being insolvent there will be little left. However victims could have pursued a civil action using the Employer’s Liability Insurance (If still in place at the time any claim was made). My understanding is insurance has to be that which was in place at time of claim and claim must be within 3yrs of accident.