Alfred Dorris, the driver of the tram which crashed at Sandilands in November 2016 when seven people died, was in tears in the dock at the Old Bailey at lunchtime today as a trial jury returned a not guilty verdict on the charge of failing to take reasonable care at work.
The jury took less than two hours this morning to reach its verdict at the end of the month-long trial.
Dorris, 49, had been charged under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 over the derailment. There were 69 passengers on the tram when it toppled over on a sharp bend.
Those who died were Dane Chinnery, Donald Collett, Robert Huxley, Philip Logan, Dorota Rynkiewicz, Philip Seary and Mark Smith. Another 19 suffered life-changing injuries.
Transport expert Christian Wolmar, who has written about the tram crash for this website in the past, described Dorris’ trial outcome as “rightly so”.
But one of the relatives of the victims of the crash, Danielle Wynne, granddaughter of Philip Logan, told the PA news agency that the trial outcome was “deflating”.
“There has to be some kind of accountability,” Wynne said.
“A not guilty verdict to me is like someone stabbing me in the chest.
“My grandad and this incident will never be forgotten. It’s a date that’s etched into my mind. Our family feels truly let down by the justice system.”
Transport for London, who own the tram network, and their operators, First Group’s Tram Operations Limited, have previously admitted health and safety offences relating to significant failings ahead of the catastrophic derailment. They will be sentenced next month.
Dorris’s defence in his case centred on how other factors outside his control – poor lights, lack of signage in the tunnel ahead of the curve – had caused him to become disorientated. He had told the court that at the time of the crash, he thought he was going in the opposite direction.
The court heard how TfL and TOL had allowed a safety blind spot to develop. No risk assessment was ever carried out on a possible high-speed derailment on this sharp corner into Sandilands.
A near-miss on the same curve just 10 days prior to the crash was not properly followed up. The prosecution said the operator had created “an accident waiting to happen”.
Measures to control the risk of derailments were not in place, the court was told.
The prosecution also claimed Dorris may have had a “micro-sleep” while at the controls of the tram. He denied this, saying, “It just went horribly wrong for me.”
He told the jury that by the time he realised his mistake, the tram was already tipping over and he was thrown from his seat, causing him to hit his head and pass out.
Dorris also said he had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since the crash and had become estranged from his wife and daughter.
Read more: Flawed inquest into tram crash is ‘Hillsborough repeating itself’
Read more: Lawyer’s plea: ‘Save tram victims’ families further heartache’
Read more: TfL ‘scandal putting passengers at risk’ over driver fatigue
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