Daventry Rail Freight Terminal operator guilty of negligence over 11-year-old's death in 2017
Jury heard how schoolboy was electrocuted after getting on to tracks through a fence
The operators of Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal have been found guilty of negligence over the death of an 11-year-old Northamptonshire boy in 2017, the Office of Rail and Road has reported.
Harrison Ballantyne was killed in June 2017 after he and pals got into Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal through a fence. He climbed on top of a stationary freight wagon where he came into contact with overhead wires carrying 25,000 volts.
Harrison, a pupil at Guilsborough Academy, was found on near a bridle-path with serious burns and pronounced dead at the scene.
Logistics giant WH Malcolm Ltd were found guilty by a jury at Northampton Crown Court following a prosecution brought by the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said in a statement.
The trial, which lasted three weeks, heard how ORR’s investigation found the company had not only failed to assess the risk of unauthorised access to the terminal, but also failed to implement appropriate measures to prevent unauthorised access to a part of the site where there were frequent freight movements and overhead line equipment, the ORR said.
The court also heard how WH Malcom Ltd were routinely placing freight wagons under the electrified lines, enabling access to be gained in the vicinity of the high voltage cable, which would otherwise not have been accessible, the ORR added.
Immediately after the incident, ORR inspectors attended site and issued WH Malcolm Ltd with an improvement notice requiring them to take steps to improve the boundary fence. The company complied with this notice within the deadline that ORR agreed, with new fencing installed.
In a statement released three days after his death, Harrison’s parents said: “Harrison was our beautiful son. In less than 12 years he filled our lives with happiness. His lively character lit up the room.
"Harrison was a kind and thoughtful boy who shared everything and always thought of others. He was an outgoing boy and loved to be active and outside exploring, climbing and getting muddy. Life was an adventure that he sought out to the full.
“His cheeky smile and witty humour keeps us smiling and a huge piece of all of us has gone with him, never to return.
“His innocence and inquisitive nature led him to the railway track, stealing him from this world so soon after he arrived."
Malcolm Group is based in Scotland and has operated rail freight services for 20 years carrying over 30,000 containers 364 days a year for a wide range of retailers and manufacturers.
It became the terminal operator of DIRFT in 2008.
WH Malcolm were charged and found guilty of two offences under the the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 — failing to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in their employment were exposed to risks to their health and safety through the conduct of their undertaking — and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, failing to undertake a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of persons not in their employment, the ORR said.
Ian Prosser, Chief Inspector of Railways said: "Our thoughts are with Harrison’s loved ones and family.
"The rail industry knows the dangers of the railway and must do what it can to prevent unauthorised access and in this case, WH Malcom 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.
“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."
A spokesperson for WH Malcolm Ltd said today (Thursday): “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.”
WH Malcolm will be sentenced at Northampton Crown Court on July 30, 2021.
Trespass on railways is a serious concern for Network Rail and British Transport Police with more than 2,200 incidents involving children in the second half of 2020.
BTP Superintendent Alison Evans added: “We often warn families at this time of year as the evenings get lighter and children prepare to enjoy school holidays.
"Trespassing on the railway can have serious, life-changing consequences for the individual, their loved ones and the wider community.
"Please, make sure you know the rail safety basics and pass that knowledge onto your loved ones. Lead by example and stay off the tracks.”