A rail depot operator has been fined £6.5million for safety failings after an 11-year-old boy who was electrocuted fetching a football and died from severe electrical burns.

Paramedics battled to save Harrison Ballantyne but he was pronounced dead at the Daventry International Rail Freight Depot, Northants, on June 26, 2017, after being zapping by 25,000 volts.

Sports-mad Harrison, from the nearby village of Crick, had climbed on top of a stationary freight wagon and received a fatal electric shock from an overhead line.

WH Malcolm Limited, operator of the depot, was sentenced to a £6.5 million fine at Northampton Crown Court.

Judge Adrienne Lucking QC said it was "inexplicable" that the site's boundary was not secured and the firm had "failed" to make the appropriate changes, describing it as having a "culture of cost-cutting".

WH Malcolm Limited, the operator of the depot, was sentenced to a £6.5 million fine at Northampton Crown Court (


Mat Fascione)

The Scottish-based firm was also ordered to pay £241,000 after they were found guilty of a string of health and safety failings.

Sentencing, the judge said: "This fine must bring home to directors and board members the need to comply with health and safety legislation."

The court heard Harrison and five friends were able to climb over a wooden fence next to a bridleway to access the "head shunt" area of the depot.

He climbed onto the wagon where he came into contact with overhead wires carrying 25,000 volts and suffered serious electrical burns.

WH Malcolm was found guilty of two health and safety offences by a jury following a three-week trial prosecuted by rail regulator The Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

The court also heard heartbreaking statements from Harrison's parents, grandparents, friends who witnessed the accident about the impact of his death.

Judge Adrienne Lucking QC said it was "inexplicable" that the site's boundary was not secured (



His mother, Elizabeth, described coming to terms with the reality of how her son died as "a torment I will never be free from".

She said in a statement: "The day Harrison died, my life was taken too.

"That life no longer existed and was replaced with a nightmare I can never wake up from

"I've learned to smile again as I refuse to let what happened to Harrison ruin my other children's lives but the smile hides something no one else will be able to comprehend.

"The damage he sustained was nothing less than horrific and no counselling or tablets will help this - it will haunt me forever."

Harrison's grandparents said they were on holiday in Spain when Harrison died and the journey home was "the most difficult and emotional we have ever done".

They added: "This avoidable accident has broken our hearts."

Several of Harrison friends who saw him die have suffered mental health problems, dropped out of school and also been diagnosed with PTSD.

One of the boys, now aged 16 and 12 at the time, said in a statement: "Since the accident it has taken me a long time to get over it.

"I struggled to sleep and make friends at school. Harrison was my best friend. I miss going to places with him, he was a big part of my life and I saw him daily at school before this accident.

"I need the court and those responsible to understand the awful and ongoing impact on our lives since losing Harrison."

The court heard how WH Malcolm had been repeatedly warned about the trespassing issues in that area in the years before Harrison's death.

An inspection ahead of a visit by its insurers recommended installing fencing and carrying out a risk assessment in 2013.

Neither were done despite getting a quote for £4,015 for the fencing but bosses thought it was too expensive.

After another trespassing incident in 2015, a fence was installed on the north side of the nearby bridge but none to the south side which did not solve the issue.

The court also heard how WH Malcolm routinely placed freight wagons under electrified lines for prolonged periods of time.

The day before Harrison's death children were seen playing football in the 'head shunt' area by a passing train driver, which was reported to police.

After the incident, ORR inspectors attended the site and issued WH Malcolm with an improvement notice requiring them to take steps to improve the boundary fence.

ORR chief inspector of railways Ian Prosser said: “Our thoughts remain with Harrison’s family and friends.

“It is only right that WH Malcom is held to account for failing to prevent unauthorised access and for failing to manage the risks in what should have been an entirely avoidable tragedy.

“The railway industry has done some excellent work in preventing trespass and educating children about the risks, but this case serves as a reminder that should access to the railway not be properly controlled, serious events like this occur.

"This will send messages across the sector that you need to do the basics here and ensure your sites are secure."

A WH Malcolm spokesperson said: “Our thoughts and condolences remain with Harrison’s family and friends following this tragic incident four years ago.

"We acknowledge the decision of the court and will now take time to consider the detailed sentence.”