Press releases

Freight depot operator guilty after ORR prosecution into death of 11-year-old boy

7 July 2021
WH Malcom Limited, which runs one of the biggest freight depots in Britain, has been found guilty of failing to prevent unauthorised access to Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal after an 11-year-old boy died.
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Daventry International freight Terminal
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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.

Harrison Ballantyne died in June 2017 when he easily gained access to the depot with his friends and was able to climb on top of a stationary freight wagon, where he received an electric shock from the overhead line.

He was pronounced dead at the scene despite efforts from paramedics.

The trial, which lasted three weeks, heard how ORR’s investigation found WH Malcom Ltd 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 energised at 25,000 volts.

The court also heard how WH Malcom were routinely placing freight wagons under the electrified lines, enabling access to be gained to the vicinity of the high voltage cable, which would otherwise not have been accessible. 

Immediately after the incident, ORR inspectors attended site and issued WH Malcolm 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.

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."

WH Malcolm will be sentenced on 30 July 2021.

Notes to editors

  1. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the independent economic and safety regulator for Britain’s railways, and monitor of performance and efficiency for England’s strategic road network.
  2. W. H. Malcolm Ltd (trading as the Malcolm Group) is a logistics company based in Linwood, Renfrewshire, Scotland. The company provides logistic services (Malcolm Logistics and Malcolm Rail) including road and rail transport, warehousing, and terminal management. In 2008 Malcolm Rail became the Terminal Operator of the Daventry International Railfreight Terminal - DIRFT. 
  3. WH Malcolm were charged and found guilty of two offences under Section 3 (1) of 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 Regulation 3 of 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).
  4. Background:
    • WH Malcolm were charged and found guilty of two offences under Section 3 (1) of 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 Regulation 3 of 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).

Cover image: Daventry International Railport DIRFT Rugby 03.04.19 by Paul Smith on Flickr used under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).