Crown won't appeal acquittals in Lac-Mégantic train disaster case

Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions will not appeal the not-guilty verdicts reached by the jury in the trial of three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic rail workers for their role in the 2013 derailment and explosions in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

Tom Harding, Richard Labrie, Jean Demaître cleared of criminal negligence causing 47 deaths

Train engineer Thomas Harding was unable to speak to reporters after hearing the verdict in Sherbrooke, Que., on Jan. 19, 2018. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) will not appeal the not-guilty verdicts reached by the jury in the trial of three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic rail workers for their role in the 2013 derailment and explosions in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

The DPCP announced its decision in a statement on Friday, saying it had carefully reviewed the questions of law pertaining to the case.

"The prosecutors concluded that in the best interest of the public, the case would not be appealed," said DPCP spokesperson Jean Pascal Boucher.

Boucher said prosecutors had presented all the admissible documents in court and had called on more than thirty witnesses.

On Jan. 19, after a four-month trial and nine days of deliberations, jurors acquitted the three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railway employees charged with criminal negligence causing 47 deaths.

Locomotive engineer Tom Harding, 56, rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, and operations manager Jean Demaître, 53, were indicted for their roles in the derailment of a runaway fuel train early on July 6, 2013.

Several tankers carrying highly volatile crude oil exploded, turning downtown Lac-Mégantic into an inferno and killing 47 people.​

Class-action suit still looming

Harding's defence lawyer, Charles Shearson, says he spoke with his client on Friday after the Crown released its statement.

"He is relieved to be able to put, at least the whole criminal process, behind him and to be able to move forward," said Shearson. 
Tom Harding, left, with his legal team, Charles Shearson and Tom Walsh, at the Sherbrooke courthouse during the trial. (Alison Brunette/CBC)

He said an appeal would have been surprising given the trial was before a jury.

"There would have had to be an error in the directives or in a preliminary decision by his honourable Justice Dumas," he said. 

Tom Harding is still a defendant in a class-action lawsuit filed against his former employer, MMA, which has since gone bankrupt, as well as Canadian Pacific.

Shearson says since it is a civil suit, it would not carry any criminal charges. No date has been set.