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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 21:44 GMT
Rail crash charges 'less likely'
The Potters Bar rail crash
Seven people were killed in the Potters Bar crash
British Transport Police's decision to no longer lead a rail crash inquiry may have dashed hopes of bringing serious criminal charges, it has been claimed.

BTP had assumed "primacy" in the investigation because of a suspicion a serious criminal offence led to the Potters Bar derailment on 10 May, 2002.

But it was announced on Thursday that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would now be taking the lead.

Lawyer Louise Christian, said serious charges were now "much more unlikely".

But, Ms Christian, the lawyer for families of five of the seven people killed at the station in Hertfordshire, added: "We are still hoping there will be a prosecution in the future."

Responsible for track maintenance

She added the Government's failure to order a public inquiry into the crash "at the outset" had left police investigating "with one hand tied behind their backs".

The engineering firm Jarvis, which is based in Hertfordshire, has been at the centre of the probe into the crash as it was responsible for track maintenance at the scene of the derailment

The HSE can bring prosecutions for breaches of health and safety legislation for which only fines can be imposed, rather than the custodial sentences for charges such as manslaughter or gross negligence which could be brought by the BTP.

The decision over the HSE's lead role was revealed on Thursday at a meeting between the BTP and HSE, some of the bereaved families and those injured in the crash.

A spokeswoman for the HSE insisted serious criminal charges had not been ruled out.

Heading for Norfolk

She said the lead in the investigation had been transferred to the HSE because the emphasis was now on management systems and procedures.

The Potters Bar rail crash killed seven people and injured 76 when the rear coach of the train heading for King's Lynn in Norfolk was derailed at the Hertfordshire station.

It is believed to have happened when a four-carriage West Anglia Great Northern passenger train, travelling at 96mph, went over a faulty set of points.

One of the dead was a pedestrian who had been hit by debris falling from the railway bridge.

Speaking on Thursday a Jarvis spokesman said: "Jarvis will continue to co-operate to the fullest extent with the authorities' investigation into the tragedy."


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