Bus Operator fined £2.3 million following fatal crash

Andrew Thomas QC prosecuted Midland Red (South) Ltd (a subsidiary of Stagecoach Group plc) and its driver Kailash Chander following a fatal bus crash in Coventry City Centre.

Kailash Chander was 77 years old at the date of the collision and employed by Midland Red as a casual driver. His standard of driving had deteriorated over a number of years. He had been involved in several ‘blameworthy’ collisions and had been the subject of a number of complaints. Despite his age, he was regularly working in excess of 50 hours per week. Mr Chander and his employer were warned that he should reduce his hours because fatigue was contributing to his poor driving.

Both Midland Red and Mr Chander ignored the warnings. His hours were increased and he frequently worked a whole week without a day off. In the four weeks prior to the fatal crash he had worked an average of 72 hours each week. During this time, further complaints were received from passengers that they thought his driving was unsafe. A warning from a manager that the company should consider not using Mr Chander to drive was not acted upon.

In the late afternoon of Saturday 3rd October 2015, Mr Chander drove a double-decker bus into Coventry City Centre. He lost control of the bus as he accelerated away from a stop. He drove through groups of pedestrians before crashing into the front of the Sainsbury’s store. Two people were killed: a 76 year old pedestrian and a 7 year old passenger on the bus. Two other passengers suffered serious injuries. There was no prior mechanical defect and the investigation showed that the accident was due to gross driver error.

Midland Red admitted offences contrary to Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Over a period of six months, they had failed to act on warnings that their driver was unsafe and had allowed him to work excessive hours. The depot managers had not properly applied the company’s capability and disciplinary procedures.

Midland Red was a large company for the purpose of the sentencing guideline. HHJ Farrer QC found that there had been a high risk of death or serious injury throughout this period and that the company’s culpability was high. The company generally had a responsible attitude to health and safety, but serious failings had occurred at the level of depot management. The deaths and injuries were aggravating features, as were the large numbers of people put at risk.  The Judge determined that a fine of £3.5 million was appropriate, but gave one third credit for the company’s early guilty plea.

Kailash Chander was charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving. After hearing extensive medical evidence, the Court found that he was unfit to plead or stand trial. A ‘trial of the facts’ was held under the Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964 at which the jury found the allegations of dangerous driving proven.  The Court imposed a supervision order.