'Justice has been suffocated': Families' fury as Croydon tram crash inquest jurors return verdict of accidental death

The families of victims of the Croydon tram crash have said "justice has been suffocated" after jurors at the inquest into the disaster returned a verdict of accidental death. The crash claimed the l

'Justice has been suffocated': Families' fury as Croydon tram crash inquest jurors return verdict of accidental death

The families of victims of the Croydon tram crash have said "justice has been suffocated" after jurors at the inquest into the disaster returned a verdict of accidental death.

The crash claimed the lives of seven people and injured 51 others when the tram derailed in south London on 9 November 2016.

In the seven-week inquest, the jury heard that the tram toppled over and spun off the tracks near the Sandilands stop after hitting a curve at 45mph (73kph), despite a 12mph (20kph) speed restriction being in place.

The driver, Alfred Dorris, was arrested but never charged following the incident.

19-year-old Dane Chinnery.
 Mark Smith and 
 57-year-old football fan Philip Seary. 
 35-year-old Dorota Rynkiewicz.
Image: (From left) Dane Chinnery, Mark Smith, Philip Seary and Dorota Rynkiewicz were among the seven people killed in the crash

The mother of Mark Smith, one of the victims, said “justice has been suffocated”.

Jean Smith, whose son was 35 when he died, called the inquest into the deaths a “farce” and said she was “bitterly disappointed” not to hear evidence from management at Transport for London.

She said: "We have only heard half of the evidence and no one who could potentially have been responsible for the crash has been called as a witness."

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Lawyers for the families say they will now seek to judicially review the coroner’s interpretation of the law, and are calling on the Attorney General to ask the High Court to clarify how inquests should be run.

Ben Posford, a Partner at Osbornes Law who represented five of the seven families, said the families did not receive the justice they deserve.

He said: "Instead of gaining a greater understanding of how and why their loved ones died, they have been badly let down.

"Ultimately they feel that nobody has been held accountable for the tragic events almost five years ago and will keep fighting for justice for their loved ones."

South London senior coroner Sarah Ormond-Walshe had told the jury of eight men and three women at Croydon Town Hall that it could deliver a verdict of unlawful killing or accident.

She sent the jury out to consider its verdict at 1.32pm on 7 July.

The crash claimed the lives of Dane Chinnery, 19; Philip Seary, 57; Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35; Robert Huxley, 63; and Philip Logan, 52, all from New Addington, and Donald Collett, 62, and Mark Smith, 35, both from Croydon.

All of the fatalities had been either fully or partially thrown out of the tram through the windows or doors when the glass shattered.

Simon French, chief inspector of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, told the inquest that Mr Dorris may have slipped into a period of "microsleep" on the stretch of track ahead of the curve.

He said extra signage could have mitigated the risk, and there were apparent "culture issues" at operator Tram Operations Ltd that meant drivers were unwilling to admit to speeding or other errors.

There was a previous incident just 10 days before the crash when a driver hit the same bend at 27mph (45kph) and nearly overturned, but it was insufficiently investigated, Mr French added.