Nearly six years after the fatal Croydon tram crash which claimed the lives of seven people, the Office of Rail and Road this morning announced that it is to prosecute Transport for London, Tram Operations Limited and driver Alfred Dorris following what they describe as “a detailed and thorough investigation”.
A relative of one of those killed in the crash said this morning that the prosecutions have come as “a little sense of relief” amid a “road of pure hell” for families over the past five years.
An inquest into the events that took place on the tram network at Sandilands on November 9, 2016, was held at Croydon Town Hall last summer. A jury returned a verdict there of accidental deaths of the victims: Dane Chinnery 19, Philip Seary, 57, Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35, Robert Huxley, 63, and Philip Logan, all from New Addington, and Donald Collett, 62, and Mark Smith, both from Croydon.
The Croydon disaster had the highest death toll of any accident on a tram network in Britain for nearly 100 years.
Another 51 passengers were hurt in the crash, some suffering life-changing injuries, after the New Addington to Wimbledon tram derailed on a sharp bend in the tracks as it exited a tunnel when travelling at three times the speed limit.
The Office of Rail and Road is the regulator of Britain’s railways – including light rail, trams and heritage, responsible for enforcement to help ensure the safety of passengers and workers.
ORR says that its prosecution is for “breaches of health and safety law”.
On the day of the crash, driver Dorris was arrested at the scene, but in October 2019 the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring a prosecution for manslaughter due to a lack of evidence. The CPS also decided against bringing a case for corporate manslaughter against the tram network owners and operators.
Now, under the case brought by ORR, if found guilty, Dorris could face up to two years in prison and an unlimited fine.
TfL and TOL also face unlimited financial penalties if found guilty.
In a statement released this morning, ORR said, “Transport for London is alleged to have failed to ensure the health and safety of passengers on the Croydon Tramlink network, so far as reasonably practicable.
“Tram Operations Limited, which runs the tram service on TfL’s behalf, is also alleged to have failed to ensure the health and safety of passengers on the network, so far as reasonably practicable.
“Driver Alfred Dorris has been accused of an alleged failure as an employee to take reasonable care of passengers whilst employed at work driving the tram.”
A hearing will take place at Croydon Magistrates’ Court, with a date to be set.
Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said, “My thoughts are with the families of the seven people who lost their lives on 9 November 2016, the many more injured and everyone whose lives have been impacted as a result of this incident.
“Following a detailed and thorough investigation, we’ve taken the decision to prosecute Transport for London, Tram Operations Limited and driver Alfred Dorris for what we believe to be health and safety failings.
“We’ve made a fair, independent and objective assessment about what happened, and it is now for the court to consider if any health and safety law has been breached.”
Tram Operations Ltd responded to the announcement by saying it would “co-operate fully with the legal process”.
A TOL spokesperson said, “Our commitment to safety remains unwavering and is integral to everything we do.”
Danielle Wynne’s grandfather, Philip Logan, was among those killed in the crash. This morning she said, “It’s not the criminal charges I was hoping for, but that was never going to happen with the law placement and how it is.
“But I have to take something from this – it’s been five-and-a-half years, it’s been a road of pure hell to have an inquest where we got no more answers than what we already knew, in fact it caused more questions for me than answers.
“I have a little sense of relief.
“I think that they should all be held accountable.
“I will be in that courtroom, I will be there however long it takes every step of the way, it’s for them, it’s justice for our loved ones and I don’t want their lives to have been lost for nothing, because that’s what it feels like at the moment.”
Five of the seven families were represented at last year’s Coroner’s Court inquest by
Ben Posford, a partner at Osbornes Law. Today he said, “This comes as welcome news for the families of the victims of the Croydon tram crash who have been fighting for years for justice.
“Their hopes of a criminal prosecution and an unlawful killing conclusion at the inquest were dashed, so I hope they can get some solace from this latest bid to prosecute Tfl, ToL and Mr Dorris.”
Read more: Flawed inquest into tram crash is ‘Hillsborough repeating itself’
Read more: Tram crash coroner recommendations welcomed by families
Read more: ‘Unlawful killing’ among possible tram crash inquest verdicts
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Feel sorry for the unfortunate driver, hasn’t he suffered enough already?
The driver should have been tried for manslaughter, my friend was when he accidentally killed 6 people while driving a train (he was found innocent).
The tram drivers had complained of being tired, but carried on driving! They all knew the route and the speed restriction on that corner. They are paid to follow the rules including the speed restrictions and by failing to do his job people have been killed.
If we can’t trust drivers of Buses and trams to do their job and follow the rules it is time to replace them with computer programs.