Families of the Croydon tram crash victims are calling for a “legal loophole” to be closed following a meeting with a government minister, writes Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter.
Currently the charge of death by dangerous driving, or death by careless driving, does not apply if tram accidents happen when the tram is not on the road.
This is one of three things raised at a meeting with Baroness Charlotte Vere, minister for roads, buses and places this week.
Danielle Whetter is the granddaughter of Philip Logan, one of the seven people killed when a tram derailed at Sandilands Tunnel in 2016.
After the meeting she said: “The law change was something I picked up very early on. Even back then I had a hunch it was not going to go the way we wanted it to. It has always been stacked against us.
“The way forward for me now is I’ve got to get some kind of closure where I can, I think the law change would do that.
“We need to make sure that tram networks are safe. People need to be covered if something happens, and if a driver is at fault they would be prosecuted for it.
“If an accident happened again today or tomorrow the loved ones and families would be in exactly the same position we are in.” In 2019 the British Transport Police (BTP) announced that after an investigation the driver or companies would not be charged gross negligence manslaughter.
Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central, also attended the meeting, describing it as “positive”.
She added: “The first thing we are asking for is quite straightforward, for death by dangerous driving to apply to accidents where trams are not on the road.
“If there is a crash in the future on any of the tramways across the country, if it happens off the road that wouldn’t be an option, we want this loophole changed.
“We are not saying that would definitely have applied in the Croydon case but we will never know, it wasn’t an option.
“All they could look at was health and safety legislation or manslaughter.”
The group also raised the point that the jury inquest into the seven deaths, which concluded earlier this year, did not hear further evidence after hearing from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch.
They want this legal precedent, known as the Norfolk Ruling, to be changed.
The third point raised was for recommendations made by the coroner, including automatic braking, strengthened doors and a tram passenger safety group, to be put in place as soon as possible.
In September, Mark Davis, TfL’s general manager for London trams, said: “Safety will always be our number one priority, and we continue to review our operation and to work with the wider tram industry to introduce any further measures that may benefit the people who rely on our services.
We have confirmed that any future tram designs will incorporate strengthened doors and have also committed to work with Alstom to see whether it is possible to retrofit the existing fleet.”
Baroness Vere is expected to come back with a response in the new year.
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