Lawyer Says Appeal Court Win By Balfour Beatty A Slap In The Face For Victims Relatives

Hatfield train crash

05.07.2006

Engineering firm Balfour Beatty has had their record-breaking £10m fine reduced to £7.5m today by the Court of Appeal. The fine was imposed for breaching health and safety regulations over the 2000 Hatfield train crash, in which four people died and 102 were injured. The company's lawyers had argued that the fine was excessive and did not credit the company for its plea of guilty.

Train crash experts

John Pickering of National Law Firm Irwin Mitchell, who represented the families of the four people who died in the crash, commented:

"I am extremely surprised that the court of appeal has reduced the fine imposed on Balfour Beatty. The judge at the Old Bailey who imposed the original record fine of £10m stated that it was one of the worst examples of sustained industrial negligence he had seen. To reduce the fine on the grounds that it was disproportionate to what Network Rail was fined seems simply unbelievable.

"This fine should have been solely based on the negligence by this company which led to four deaths and many more injured. If it was disproportionate we would argue that the fine imposed on Network Rail should instead have been increased.

"The fact that they pleaded guilty should also not diminish their culpability in this case, as this was an admission which was unavoidable after the full facts were known."

This fine also seems disproportionate to the degree of disruption their negligence caused to the entire UK rail network, not to mention the lives of all those people affected by this tragedy.

Balfour Beatty fine

In March Balfour Beatty topped City forecasts when it announced a 25% rise in annual profits, with its Pre-tax profits rising to £134m, on the back of record order books.

Even £10m would have been a drop in the ocean for a firm of this size. To reduce it is wholly inappropriate and what health & safety message does this send to big business it suggests there is very little penalty in real terms for extremely poor behaviour.

Lindsay Arthur who lost her husband Steve in the crash said "I cannot believe that this case was even considered by the appeal court, let alone for it to be successful. All we ever wanted from the trial was that lessons were learned so that another family would not have to go through what we have been through. However I feel that this judgement adds insult to injury, and in principle lessens the health & safety messages big business should strictly adhere to."

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