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The BBC's Tom Heap
"In order to achieve a full and open inquiry, immunity was granted"
 real 28k

Karen Derbyshire, Lawyer for crash victims
"Victims need to know what caused their accident"
 real 28k

Simon Lubin, British Transport Police
"If the immunity is wide, a successful prosecution is unlikely"
 real 28k

David Miles, Paddington crash survivor
"If people have made decisions, they should be held to account for them"
 real 28k

Monday, 10 January, 2000, 14:33 GMT
Anger over rail crash 'immunity'

Paddington crash Wreckage at Paddington, where 31 died

British Transport Police says it is now highly unlikely it will be able to bring charges of corporate manslaughter in the wake of the Paddington rail disaster.

The announcement follows the decision by the Attorney General, Lord Williams of Mostyn, to grant legal immunity to all evidence given to the public inquiry into the crash.

The development has angered relatives of the 31 people who died and those who were injured in the October collision.

London Train Crash
They want an inquiry to find out the reasons behind the crash as soon as possible.

But they also want those responsible to be held to account.

Answers needed

David Miles, one of the survivors of Paddington said: "My major concern is that an inquiry held as quickly as possible to try to identify what the causes were of the accident.

"But I appreciate that I am somebody who is possibly slightly luckier than those with more serious injuries and who therefore have a much greater desire to see that people are held to account.

"Certainly it would seem that this is giving carte blanche to anybody who gives evidence to be effectively immune from prosecution."

This is giving carte blanche to anybody who gives evidence to be effectively immune from prosecution
David Miles Paddington survivor
Maureen Kavanagh, of the Safety on Trains Action Group, said she was disappointed that legislation was not in place to make corporate manslaughter prosecutions feasible.

But she added: "The inquiry is now the most important thing - immunity will at least ensure that the full truth about the Ladbroke Grove crash and what caused it comes out and that the measures are taken to stop it happening again.

"Unfortunately, rather like Southall, families and victims will more likely than not now hear all the evidence and think that there should be a prosecution, which of course will then not be possible."

Prosecution 'unlikely'

Simon Lubin, spokesman for the British Transport Police, said the force was trying to clarify the postion with the Crown Prosecution Service.

But he added: "If the immunity is very wide then it looks very unlikely you could mount a successful prosecution, in which case we would need to look at the resources that we are devoting to that part of the investigation and perhaps reallocate them."

But the Crown Prosecution Service said the immunity decision meant only a "small risk" to criminal proceedings.

Lord Williams also insisted that any suggestion that evidence submitted during the inquiry would be protected from proceedings elsewhere was wrong.

The Attorney General added: "The undertaking protects from use in any prosecution the actual documents produced to the inquiry.

"It does not extend to any other manifestation of the documents, whether the originals (if those are retained) or any copies, which the police or other investigators are able to obtain."

Lord Williams added that Lord Cullen had now been asked to bring the clarification to the attention of all potential witnesses at the public inquiry, due to start in the spring.

'Terrible conflict'

In the immediate aftermath of the Paddington crash, the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott responded to public anxiety by promising that the inquiry under Lord Cullen would report quickly on safety and other matters.

Paddington disaster The immunity pledge could jeopardise any prosecution
He wanted to avoid the delays that hampered the inquiry into the Southall rail disaster in which seven people died.

It was put off for two years because of ongoing criminal proceedings against Great Western Trains that finally collapsed in July last year.

Karen Darbyshire is a partner in the law firm which represented victims of the Southall rail disaster and is now representing victims of the Paddington disaster.

"The inquiry clearly has to happen very quickly. Victims need to know what caused the accident," she said.

But she said that it was also important that the government addressed the "terrible conflict" between the need for answers and the danger of prejudicing any potential criminal prosecutions.

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See also:
21 Dec 99 |  Health
Paddington: Contrasting stories
06 Nov 99 |  UK
Crash survivors rally for safety
18 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
New transport body sounds safety warning
07 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Money no object on rail safety - Prescott
25 Oct 99 |  UK
Rail safety under the microscope
19 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott calls safety summit

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