Tyne & Wear

Birtley rail firm fined £2.7m after boy electrocuted

Tyne Yard depot
Image caption Not enough was done to prevent trespassers gaining entry to the depot, the court was told

A rail firm has been fined almost £3m after a 13-year-old boy suffered life-changing injuries at a Tyneside depot.

The teenager lost part of both legs after being electrocuted when he and three friends got into the DB Cargo UK Tyne Yard depot near Birtley in 2014.

The company had denied health and safety breaches, but was found guilty after a trial at Newcastle Crown Court.

Imposing a fine of £2.7m, Judge Stephen Earl said there had been "systemic failures" in managing safety risks.

The company said it had made safety improvements at all its UK sites.

A trial jury had earlier been told the boys were trespassing in the yard on the evening of 14 June 2014.

The 13-year-old climbed on top of a wagon which was close to overhead lines and was hit by 25,000 volts of electricity.

Security patrols

An investigation found the firm knew the site attracted trespassers, as shown by the presence of graffiti, fly tipping and vandalism, as well as reports of drinking and drug taking there.

However, there was no fence or gate stopping people leaving a public bridleway and walking on to the yard, and no warning signs to deter them.

Security patrols only worked during daylight hours and CCTV cameras were switched off.

The prosecution was brought by the Office of Rail And Road under the Health And Safety At Work Act.

Image caption The court heard youths had gained access to the depot in the past

DB Cargo UK has more than 2,000 employees and recorded a £9m pre-tax profit in its most recent financial figures.

The company was also ordered to pay costs of £188,873 and a victim surcharge of £125.

Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said: "We welcome the sentence which clearly indicates the seriousness with which this offence is viewed and we expect DB Cargo and the rail industry as a whole to look very hard at their sites and make sure they are doing everything possible to ensure they are secure."

David Ethell, DB Cargo's head of safety and operations, said: "Our thoughts are with the young man who was injured in this unfortunate accident.

"We will continue to work with the Office of Rail and Road and other industry stakeholders to raise greater public awareness of the potential dangers of trespass at operational sites and on the wider rail network."

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