Rail depot firm guilty after 'entirely avoidable tragedy'


The operator of one of the biggest freight depots in Britain has been found guilty of failing to prevent unauthorised access to the depot after an 11-year-old boy died.

WH Malcolm Ltd was found guilty by a jury at Northampton Crown Court following a prosecution brought by rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal by Paul Smith CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Harrison Ballantyne died in June 2017 when he easily gained access to the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal with his friends and was able to climb on top of a stationary freight wagon, where he received an electric shock from the overhead line.

He was pronounced dead at the scene despite efforts from paramedics.

The court heard how WH Malcolm Ltd routinely placed freight wagons under the electrified lines, enabling access to be gained in the vicinity of the high voltage cable, which would not otherwise have been accessible.

The ORR sad that immediately after the incident, its inspectors attended the site and issued WH Malcolm Ltd with an improvement notice requiring it to take steps to improve the boundary fence.

The company complied with this notice within the deadline that ORR agreed, with new fencing installed.

Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser, said: 'The rail industry knows the dangers of the railway and must do what it can to prevent unauthorised access and in this case, WH Malcolm Ltd didn’t.

‘The company failed to manage the risks and prevent unauthorised access, and its approach to the management of risks had fallen far short of the standard that we expect from duty holders. This was an entirely avoidable tragedy.’

He added: ‘It should act as a reminder that we must do more to tackle trespass, despite the good work that has been done to educate children.’

WH Malcolm will be sentenced on 30 July.

A spokesperson for the company said: 'We acknowledge the verdict of the court and our thoughts and condolences remain with Harrison’s family and friends following this tragic incident four years ago.'

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