Crimes on the Rails (part 1)

An interesting case came out of Quebec earlier this year regarding a railway disaster.

Megantic
Image from here

On 6 July 2013 a train loaded with crude oil rolled out of control into the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic.  It derailed in the town. Its load of oil exploded.  Part of the town was destroyed and 47 people were killed.  The train’s engineer admitted that when he left the train that night he did not apply enough brakes to fix it in place on a sloping section of railway line.  He also admitted not having conducted a proper brake test.

The engineer was charged with criminal negligence causing death, as were the railway company’s traffic controller and manager of train operations.  Quebec Criminal Code §220 provides that –

Every person who by criminal negligence causes death to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable … to imprisonment for life.

The charges were heard in the Quebec Superior Court before Dumas J and a jury of twelve.  In January 2018 each of the defendants was acquitted.  One can infer that the defendants’ admitted carelessness was not considered to be the gross carelessness required by the criminal law.

The Queen v Harding, Labrie and Demaitre (2018), The Globe and Mail, 20 January 2018 and Kingston Whig-Standard, 19 January 2018.