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R v Balfour Beatty Rail Infrastructure Services Ltd

It was appropriate in the interest of proportionality to reduce the fine imposed on a rail track maintenance contractor for its failure to discharge its duty as an employer under s 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which was a cause of the Hatfield rail disaster, where there was a huge disparity between the fine imposed on the contractor and the fine imposed on the co-defendant rail network owner.

14 July 2006

The appellant contractor (B) appealed against the amount of the fine imposed for its failure to discharge its duty as an employer under s 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which was a cause of the Hatfield rail disaster. B had been responsible for carrying out regular visual and ultrasonic inspections of a rail track owned by a company (R), which had primary responsibility for the safety of the track. A train had derailed after two sections of track disintegrated, causing multiple deaths and numerous injuries. Each company had been charged with corporate manslaughter and a count of breach of s 3 of the 1974 Act. After the charges of corporate manslaughter had been dismissed, B had entered a late plea of guilty to the breach of s 3. R was found guilty of breach of duty under s 3. The judge held that B’s failure to fulfil its duties under s 3 had been at the top of the scale. The judge found that the visual inspections were largely a useless formality as the inspec...

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