Families of the victims of the Croydon tram crash have issued a formal request for a fresh inquest, after a jury reached a verdict last month without hearing evidence from the tram’s operators.
Lawyers representing families of five of the seven people killed have written to the attorney general urging a fresh hearing, citing the coroner’s decisions which they said risked making inquests an “expensive farce”.
The jury concluded that the six men and one woman killed when a speeding tram overturned at the Sandilands junction in Croydon in November 2016 all died as a result of an accident, with contributing factors being that the driver was disoriented and failed to brake, and that the tram operator TOL had not accounted for the risk of a derailment or ensured drivers felt able to report concerns.
However, the families’ lawyers argue that the coroner, Sarah Ormond-Walshe, interpreted the law incorrectly by deciding the jury did not need to hear testimony from the tram operator TOL, Transport for London, and other drivers, relying instead on evidence from inspectors from the Rail Accident Investigation Board (RAIB), who compiled the original crash report.
Ben Posford of Osbornes Law, lead solicitor for the five families, said in his letter to the attorney general: “We believe that it is necessary or desirable in the interests of justice that another investigation be held … [The coroner] refused to call any eyewitnesses who were in the crashed tram, nor any tram drivers or trainers, nor any managers from the tram company, nor any infrastructure managers. She refused to call the defaulting tram driver himself.”
The driver, Alfred Dorries, was adjudged unfit to testify on medical grounds.
During the inquest the coroner, citing legal precedent, said it was not her job to duplicate the original RAIB investigation unless it was shown to be flawed. She said that she did “not accept that the RAIB investigation was incomplete, flawed or deficient”, adding that “further evidence is unlikely to be of assistance to the jury”.
Posford added: “These decisions have caused distress and injustice to the families of the deceased and also caused a public outcry.
“If this decision is right … the inquest will never again hear from any of those who are directly responsible. Instead, the inquests will simply be a rubber-stamping exercise of the AIB report relating to that incident, which renders the inquest an expensive farce.”
He said that the families felt deeply let down by the inquest process and could see no point in having such an inquiry and not calling those responsible to give evidence.
Dane Chinnery, 19; Donald Collett, 62; Robert Huxley, 63; Philip Logan, 52; Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35; Philip Seary, 57; and Mark Smith, 35, died in the crash.