Croydon tram crash driver will NOT face manslaughter charges over 2016 tragedy

Croydon tram crash driver who fell asleep at the controls will NOT face manslaughter charges over 2016 tragedy as operator and TfL are also spared further action following a three-year investigation

  • Alfred Dorris, 43, dozed off for up to a ‘few minutes’ before tram flew off track
  • It was travelling at 46mph as it entered a bend with a strict 13mph speed limit 
  • CPS concluded there’s not enough evidence to prosecute him after 3-year probe
  • Tram Operations Limited and Transport for London are also in the clear

The driver of the Croydon tram that crashed at high speed killing seven people after he dropped off at the controls will not face any manslaughter charges, it was revealed today. 

Alfred Dorris, 43, dozed off for up to a ‘few minutes’ and woke just before the tram flew off the track and was so disorientated he thought he was travelling in the other direction, an investigation into the disaster found.  

The tram was travelling at 46mph as it entered a bend at Sandilands Junction where trains should not go any faster than the 13mph limit – the seven commuters who died were all thrown out of the winders and crushed by its sliding carriages.

But the Crown Prosecution Service has concluded there is not enough evidence to prosecute him after a three-year investigation.

Prosecutors have also concluded that no charge for corporate manslaughter will be brought against Tram Operations Limited and Transport for London after a three-year probe by British Transport Police.

The families of those who lost loved ones on November 9 2016 have been informed of the decision, with police admitting that many will be disappointed.

The overturned Croydon tram that crashed after the driver probably fell asleep – but he will not be charged over the seven deaths in November 2016

What is the law on gross negligence manslaughter?

By Richard Spillett, crime correspondent 

The law on gross negligence manslaughter is seen as quite difficult to prove because it involves a four stage test.

Prosecutors must show, one, that the person charged had a ‘duty of care’ to those killed and, two, that they breached that duty of care.

They must also prove that, three, the breach caused or significantly caused the death or deaths, and that, four, the defendant’s conduct was so bad as to constitute gross negligence.

In a 2005 case often cited by lawyers, a judge told the jury they must consider the defendant’s actions to be ‘reprehensible’ to constitute gross negligence.

Experts say the law is so tight to avoid people being given long jail sentences over legitimate accidents. 

Detective Superintendent Gary Richardson, who led the BTP investigation, said: ‘For the past three years, my team have been working to uncover exactly what happened on the morning of November 9 2016.

‘This has involved simulating the circumstances of the derailment, speaking with hundreds of witnesses and collecting thousands of individual pieces of evidence. It has been a complex investigation undertaken by the Force.

‘We know that this latest update may not be the news that many, including the family members who lost loved ones, had hoped for. But we are satisfied that every scrap of possible evidence has been scrutinised and, after lengthy consultation with the CPS, it has been concluded that the threshold to bring charges of manslaughter against the tram driver, TfL and Tram Operations Ltd, have not been met.

‘Since November 2016, we’ve been working alongside the Office of Rail and Road who continue investigate whether Health and Safety legislation was breached during this incident. We will also work with HM Coroner to begin the process of preparing for the inquests of the seven people who lost their lives.

‘Those seven men and women, along with their loved ones, and every person affected by the events on that morning, are very much still at the forefront of our minds.’

Dane Chinnery was named  as the first victim of the Croydon tram crash

Mark Smith pictured with son Lucas by the Christmas tree

Dane Chinnery was named as the first victim of the Croydon tram crash Mark Smith pictured with son Lucasby the Christmas treet

Phil Seary pictured at the wedding of his youngest daughter Karina

Mother-of-two Dorota Rynkiewicz was described by friends as a devoted mother and a 'friendly, caring and giving person'

Phil Seary pictured at the wedding of his youngest daughter Karina. Mother-of-two Dorota Rynkiewicz was described by friends as a devoted mother and a ‘friendly, caring and giving person’

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report into the causes of the disaster, published in December 2017, found Alfred Dorris had a ‘micro-sleep’ while driving.

It also explained that he told police he believed he was travelling in the opposite direction – and did not realise he was approaching the tight left-hand Sandilands bend where the tram would derail moments later.

The tram was travelling at 49mph as it went through a tunnel just before the bend and did not slow down quickly enough as it approached the turn. It derailed as a result. 

Mr Dorris was on a pattern of permanent early shifts and was on his third consecutive day of work when the crash happened, the RAIB’s report said.

He knew the route well and had no history of speeding. Investigators also found ‘no evidence’ that his shift pattern would posed exceptional risk of fatigue, but said it was ‘possible’ he had insufficient sleep before working them.

The driver had been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter on the day of the crash but has now learned he will not be put in the dock. 

Some passengers described the crash that followed as ‘like being in a washing machine’.

The tram crash was one of the worst public transport tragedies for a generation

The tram crash was one of the worst public transport tragedies for a generation

It was travelling at 46mph as it entered a bend at Sandilands Junction where trains should not go any faster than the 13mph limit and a new reconstruction released today showed how it toppled over

It was travelling at 46mph as it entered a bend at Sandilands Junction where trains should not go any faster than the 13mph limit and a new reconstruction released today showed how it toppled over

The length of one side of the tram's aide was badly damaged and all passengers were all trapped 

The length of one side of the tram’s aide was badly damaged and all passengers were all trapped 

All of the seven people who died were all thrown out of the windows or doors when the glass shattered

All of the seven people who died were all thrown out of the windows or doors when the glass shattered

Windows and doors were wrenched from their screws or castings due to the force of the crash

Windows and doors were wrenched from their screws or castings due to the force of the crash

Handrails throughout the tram were buckled, bent or broken after the impact of the crash

Handrails throughout the tram were buckled, bent or broken after the impact of the crash

Tram drivers used ’emergency brake’ nine times on crash corner – but never told bosses 

On nine occasions before the Croydon tram crash, drivers had applied the emergency brake at the corner it derailed – but none reported doing so.

One driver had come close to derailing at the Sandilands turn on October 31 last year, just days before the deadly disaster on November 9.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said a reluctance among some drivers to report their own mistakes had meant safety problems were overlooked.

It was the worst accident involving a British tram in more than 90 years, investigators said.

They made 15 safety recommendations including operator Tram Operations Ltd, owned by FirstGroup, reviewing its management of driver fatigue, the use of tougher windows and better signage at high risk locations.

Since the accident infra red eye monitors have been installed in each cab on the Croydon tram network as part of a series of safety enhancements.

Tram drivers who responded to a questionnaire issued by investigators revealed that nine of them had previously used an emergency brake to comply with the 12mph limit at Sandilands junction. 

Marilyn Logan, whose husband Philip died in the crash, said he would have been alive now if the windows had been laminated to stop people being tossed from the tram. These ejection-proof windows have been standard on trains since 1993.

She said: ‘Nobody would have been ejected. My poor husband had the tram on top of him’. 

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