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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Hatfield crash fine cut to 7.5m
Hatfield crash site
The October 2000 crash left four people dead and 102 injured
Engineering firm Balfour Beatty has had the 10m fine for its part in the Hatfield train crash cut to 7.5m.

The record-breaking fine was reduced by the Court of Appeal after defence lawyers argued it was excessive.

The company had admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act after the disaster in October 2000, in which four people died and 102 were injured.

Balfour Beatty was then responsible for track maintenance. Railtrack was also fined 3.5m for breaching safety laws.

On Wednesday, three judges headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, ruled that the disparity between the two fines was so great that a reduction was applicable.

Broken rail

"We consider there is scope for a reduction in the interests of proportionality which will still do justice to the applicable (legal) principles and, in particular, to the victims of the Hatfield disaster," said Lord Phillips.

The crash happened when a broken rail caused the derailment of a London-to-Leeds express train travelling at 117mph.

The faulty rail was spotted 21 months earlier but left unrepaired even though a replacement rail had been delivered and left alongside it for six months.

Jonathan Caplan QC, for Balfour Beatty, had argued that the firm should have had the fine reduced because it pleaded guilty.

Lindsay Arthur, who lost her husband in the crash, said she felt the judgment added insult to injury.

"I cannot believe that this case was even considered by the Appeal Court, let alone for it to be successful." said Mrs Arthur. "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."

Sympathetic

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said even the orginal fine of ten million pounds would come nowhere near to making up for the heartache and distress Balfour Beatty caused.

"It is an absolute scandal that once again the courts have given sympathetic treatment to negligent bosses who today will be laughing up their sleeves." Said Mr Crow

On Wednesday, three judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, ruled that the disparity between the original 10 million fine given to Balfour Beatty, and the 3.5 million fine incurred by railtrack was so great that a reduction was appropriate.

Jonathan Caplan QC, for Balfour Beatty, had argued that the firm should have had the fine reduced because it pleaded guilty.




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