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Rail deaths evidence thrown out

BBC News: 6 February 2007

Two men jailed for manslaughter over the deaths of four rail workers at Tebay in Cumbria have been told their appeal evidence is not valid by judges.
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Both men are challenging the safety of their manslaughter convictions

The workers, from Cumbria and Lancashire, died when they were hit by a runaway trailer in February 2004.

Mark Connolly, 44, of north Wales, and Roy Kennett, 29, of Maidstone, Kent, were told by London's Appeal Court that their new evidence was not applicable.

But Lord Justice Pill said they could begin an appeal on other grounds.

The men, both found guilty of four counts of manslaughter, are attempting to challenge the safety of their convictions.

Future date

In addition Connolly is challenging the length of his sentence. He was jailed for nine years, and Kennet for two, following a trial at Newcastle Crown Court in March 2006.

On Tuesday, Connolly's QC, Richard Lissack, said his client was entitled to expect the workers in the gorge were protected by wooden sleepers on the track to stop runaway wagons.

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The runaway trailer rolled down the track before hitting the workers


This defence was rejected at the original trial, but Mr Lissack said new safety guidance showed it had been accepted practice.

Lord Justice Pill refused the application to adduce fresh evidence, saying the new guidance did not apply to the circumstances in which the Tebay tragedy occurred.

He adjourned the appeal, which will now be re-listed at a future date, to allow the men to present other grounds why their convictions should be overturned as "unsafe".

The four who died at Tebay were Colin Buckley, 49, of Carnforth, Lancashire, Darren Burgess, 30, also of Carnforth, Chris Waters, 53, of Morecambe, Lancashire, and Gary Tindall, 46, of Tebay.

They were killed when a wagon carrying 16 tonnes of steel rail tracks came out of the darkness and hit them as they worked on the West Coast Main Line.

See also:

‘New evidence’ plea is rejected by judges

tebay.jpeg News & Star: 07/02/2007

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Mark Connolly

A RAIL boss jailed for the manslaughter of four men killed by a runaway trailer at Tebay has been denied the chance to present new evidence that the tragedy should have been averted by other safety measures.

After a three-hour hearing at London’s Appeal Court yesterday, Lord Justice Pill refused Mark Connolly’s legal team permission to produce fresh evidence in the case.

But the judge, sitting with Mr Justice Burton and Judge Findlay Baker QC, said he was now forced to adjourn the appeals against conviction brought by Connolly, 44, and his co-accused Roy Kennett, 29, who were each found guilty of four counts of manslaughter over the February 2004 tragedy.

The case will now be re-listed for hearing at a future date, which has yet to be fixed.

At trial, Connolly’s lawyers claimed he had every reason to believe that any risk of disaster would be averted because of safety guidelines requiring that timber sleepers be laid across tracks where workmen are employed.

Such a measure – termed “gradient protection” – would have prevented the runaway trailer careering down the line and into the work-gang stationed at the bottom of the unusually steep incline, one of the most extreme gradients on the rail network.

His QC, Richard Lissack, claimed one particular safety guideline – “Standard 1503” – made clear that gradient protection should have been present, but, during the trial, the prosecution had “rubbished” the suggestion.

Mr Lissack said the “new point” he wished to explore focused on a new “safety bulletin” issued last year in the wake of an accident near Kings Cross station which he said demonstrated the importance of maintaining gradient protection.

But Lord Justice Pill, refusing the application to adduce fresh evidence, said the new guidance did not apply to the circumstances in which the Tebay tragedy occurred.

The judge’s ruling means the two men must now wait for another court date to present other grounds why they say their convictions should be overturned as “unsafe”. The bulk of those arguments centre on alleged misdirections to the jury by the trial judge.

Four men, one from Cumbria and three from Lancashire, died after they were hit by the run-away trailer as it slewed down the track.

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Roy Kennett

Connolly, from Anglesey, north Wales, and crane operator, Kennett, of Old Mill Road, Maidstone, Kent, were each found guilty of four counts of manslaughter. Connolly was jailed for nine years and Kennett for two years at Newcastle Crown Court in March last year.

Those who died in the tragedy were Colin Buckley, 49, of Carnforth, Lancashire, Darren Burgess, 30, also of Carnforth, Chris Waters, 53, of Morecambe, and Gary Tindall, 46, of Tebay.

They were killed when the wagon, carrying 16 tonnes of steel rail tracks, came out of the darkness and hit them as they worked on the West Coast Main Line.

They had no warning of the approaching wagon.

Both men are appealing against their convictions, while Connolly also argues that his jail term was “manifestly excessive”.