England: Court of Appeal upholds GBP 500,000 Network Rail fine

20 Jan

A court of Appeal judgment has ruled that the GBP 500,000 fine imposed on Network Rail when it entered a guilty plea to a prosecution arising out of a 2010 accident in which a child was critically injured was reasonable. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas who had sat with Mr Justice Mitting and Mrs Justice Thirlwall made it clear that the accident on the Wright’s passive level crossing near Beccles, Suffolk, could easily have been avoided and that the fine imposed which Network Rail had argued was excessive could have been higher.

Lord Thomas highlighted the failure to conduct adequate risk assessment was at the heart of the failings that led to the prosecution of Network Rail. If basic mistakes had not been made in relation to the available sighting times available, it would have been evident that telephones should have been provided to allow users to establish whether or not it was safe to cross.

As at Elsenham where two girls were killed in December 2005, a pre-existing risk assessment in this case carried out in 2003 had concluded that the crossing was “not safe”, but the judge added: “No steps were taken to remedy it over the following six years, particularly by installing a telephone.”

In conclusion, Lord Thomas made it clear that “The fine of £500,000 imposed on a company the size of Network Rail can only be viewed as representing a very generous discount for the mitigation advanced.

To avoid the costs of this fine falling on tax payers it is to be hoped that the bonus pot available within Network Rail is reduced accordingly.

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