News Criminal Defence 8th Aug 2017

Train driver cleared of endangering passenger safety on a railway

Joshua Carey represented Mr Stephen Murdoch who was accused of “endangering the safety of railway passengers” by wilful omission at Blackfriars Crown Court.

The Prosecution was brought by the British Transport Police who specifically accused Mr Murdoch of failing to check the length of the platform in the Driver Only Operation Monitors (DOO Monitors) at Hayes and Harlington Station before Mr Murdoch pulled away. It was said that a passenger had been caught in the doors of the train and had Mr Murdoch checked he would have seen her. Mrs Malik, who was caught in the door, can be seen on the Station CCTV running onto the platform and reaching for the closing doors causing an obstruction with her hand.

As part of the Prosecution’s case they adduced evidence of platform setup, potential views of what could be seen on the DOO Monitors, the Great Western Railway rule book for Driver Only dispatch, various tests that had been undertaken to recreate the conditions from the date of the accident and image quality on the DOO Monitors.

Joshua exposed the faults in the Prosecution’s case as they failed to produce the image from the DOO Monitors (the images being live images only and are never recorded) which Mr Murdoch would actually have seen from the driver’s cab. It also became clear that there was a general failing with the doors on the First Great Western (now Great Western Railway) train which meant that a hand could be trapped in the doors of the train whilst simultaneously showing that door interlock had been obtained in the driver’s cab (interlock being a signal that the doors are closed and locked). It was a requirement as part of the safety checks that drivers ensure that door interlock had been obtained. A witness for the Prosecution with 25 years experience, and has dealt with train safety, conceded in evidence that he understood bag straps and clothing could become trapped but did not realise that something the size of a hand could become trapped and could result in interlock still being obtained.

Mr Murdoch denied failing to check the length of the platform in the DOO Monitors. He gave evidence that he did the checks as required but for whatever reason had not seen Mrs Malik rush onto the platform as the doors closed and trapped her hand. He observed that he had received interlock notification in the driver’s cab, no alarms were pulled by passengers in the carriage and that there was a misconception amongst train drivers that interlock could be achieved with a hand caught in the doors.

The jury took 2 hours 51 minutes to find Mr Murdoch not guilty of endangering passenger safety on a railway following a 5 day trial.

Joshua was expertly instructed by Luke Gittos at Hughmans Solicitors.

This matter was widely reported in the National and Local Media:

ITV | The Times | The Telegraph | Daily Mail | The Standard

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