The driver of the London tram that crashed near Croydon in November 2016 will not be prosecuted for manslaughter and neither will Transport for London face corporate manslaughter charges, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced.
Seven of the tram’s 69 passengers died and many more were injured when the tram left the tracks as it approached a bend at Sandilands junction and overturned while travelling a speed much higher than permitted.
A report by the government’s Rail Accident Investigation Branch published in December 2017 found that the driver probably fell into sleep moments before the derailment. The criminal prosecution into a possible offence of “gross criminal manslaughter” concentrated on driver error as the cause of the crash.
The CPS has concluded that only three of the four elements of that offence could be established. It was satisfied that the driver owed a duty of care to those who died, that he was negligently in breach of that duty and this was a cause of the deaths, but was not satisfied that the negligence amounted to “gross negligence”, making it a crime.
The CPS said:
“By far the most likely explanation of what happened in this case is that the driver fell asleep, or into a microsleep (a period of unintended, light sleep usually lasting for a few seconds) shortly before derailment. If this is what happened, it is clear that this was an unintended and involuntary act.
There was no compelling evidence that the driver had done anything which he ought to have known could adversely affect his concentration or make him susceptible to falling asleep whilst driving the tram, nor was there evidence that he had culpably contributed to his negligent failure to drive the tram in a safe manner. For these reasons we concluded that the offence of gross negligence manslaughter was not supported by the evidence.”
The CPS also says it considered “whether there was any realistic basis for prosecuting any of the companies involved for the offence of corporate manslaughter” but found there was “no evidence that any of the companies was guilty of gross organisational failures” that caused the deaths.
Finn Brennan, the ASLEF union’s district organiser covering the London Underground and London Trams welcomed the CPS decision about the driver, saying “he was one of the many victims of this terrible incident that was caused by lack of adequate safety systems”.
Brennan added that TfL have begun installing automatic braking systems to reduce the chances of similar incidents happening again and blamed the crash on “the collective failure” of TfL and the service operator to recognise the derailment risk.
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