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Last Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Lawyers drop final Hatfield case
Hatfield crash site
The October 2000 crash left four people dead and 102 injured
Prosecutors have dropped the case against four men still facing charges over the Hatfield rail crash.

It was alleged the four - who were all working for engineering firm Balfour Beatty - breached safety rules before the crash in 2000, which they denied.

QC Richard Lissack said the feelings of the victims' families had influenced the decision to avoid another trial.

Last month Network Rail was found guilty of health and safety breaches before the crash, which killed four.

Balfour Beatty had earlier admitted a charge under the Health and Safety Act but said it did not accept all the facts of the case the prosecution had outlined against it.

Both firms are due to be sentenced later this week.

Three ex-Railtrack managers and two former employees of Balfour Beatty, the firm which maintained the line, were cleared at the same trial in September.

THE FOUR HATFIELD VICTIMS
Robert Alcorn, 37, of New Zealand
Peter Monkhouse, 50, of Leeds
Leslie Gray, 43, of Nottingham
Stephen Arthur, 46, of West Sussex
A further 102 people were injured

In the latest decision to drop the remaining charges Mr Lissack told the Old Bailey that "very influential in our thinking" were the feelings of the families of those who died.

"They have behaved with quiet dignity and restraint throughout these long proceedings and do not want there to be... another year of uncertainty for the families.

"It is time for them to be allowed to move on - time for them to grieve in private."

The four Balfour Beatty men are Stephen Huxley, 47, managing director until August 31, 2000; Kenneth Hedley, 50, track engineer; Vernon Bullen, 49, King's Cross area maintenance engineer; and Keith Hughes, 50, an acting track engineer.

Case 'weakened'

Judge Mr Justice Mackay is expected to formally acquit the men, who were due to stand trial after he had sentenced the two companies.

Mr Lissack said although the judge had earlier ruled there was a "sound prima facie case against all four men", that in the light of the verdicts in the first trial, prosecutors decided the case would be "weakened."

The 117mph crash, which also left 102 people injured, was caused by a cracked section of the track, the original trial heard.

Prosecutors said the crash resulted from a "cavalier approach" to safety.

In July manslaughter charges against the five rail bosses - Alistair Cook, 52, Sean Fugill, 52, and Keith Lea, 55 of Railtrack and Anthony Walker, 48, and Nicholas Jeffries, 50 of Balfour Beatty - were thrown out by the judge, as was a corporate manslaughter charge against Balfour Beatty.

The crash left Railtrack with a 733m bill for repairs and compensation to train-operating companies and helped trigger its collapse.





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