Railway guard jailed for manslaughter after signalling train to move as drunk teen leaned on carriage
Published 15/11/2012 | 11:23
A RAILWAY guard has been handed a five-year jail sentence for the manslaughter of a drunk teenager because he signalled for a train to move as she was leaning against the carriage.
Christopher McGee, 45, gave the signal for the driver to depart as Georgia Varley, 16, was leaning against the window from the platform.
He was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence by a unanimous jury at Liverpool Crown Court yesterday following a two-week trial.
McGee, who had worked as a guard for Merseyrail since 1992, showed no emotion as the sentence was passed.
Mr Justice Holroyde told him: "Georgia's life was ended in a dreadful way at the age of just 16 by your gross negligence.
"You did not intend to kill or even injure her, but you displayed an appalling disregard for her safety, and she paid for your criminal negligence with her life."
The judge said aggravating features of the crime were McGee's "years of service and training".
"You must have known that a passenger who falls between the train and the platform is likely to be killed," he told the defendant.
"As the guard of the train, you were in complete control of the movement of the train. That control carries with it the direct and personal responsibility for the safety of passengers.
"Much has been made on your behalf during this trial of how intoxicated Georgia was, but that did not relieve you of the duty of care which you owed to her.
"You alone determined whether the train remained stationary or began to move. Your decision and your action determined whether Georgia Varley was safe from risk."
The judge said McGee's negligence "can be measured in seconds" and "must be viewed against a background of more than 20 years conscientious service on the railways".
He was told McGee had received a police caution in 2009 for growing nine cannabis plants at his home in Edenhurst Avenue, Wallasey, Wirral.
Georgia, described as "wonderful" by her mother, was on a night out in Liverpool with friends, when she fell between the train and the platform at the city's James Street station on October 22 last year.
The sixth-form college student, from Moreton, Wirral, was three times the legal drink-driving limit and had 0.083mg of the drug mephedrone, or Mcat, in her system at the time of her death, the court heard.
The prosecution said McGee, of Edenhurst Avenue, Wallasey, Wirral, was negligent because he gave the signal to the driver to start the train when Georgia was in contact with the train and was in an "intoxicated state".
McGee, who denied manslaughter, told the jury he thought Georgia was moving away from the train when he gave the signal to depart. He also said he did not know how drunk she was.
Completing his sentencing remarks, Mr Justice Holroyde told McGee: "In my judgment, the CCTV footage is unequivocal, Georgia Varley was not moving away and she was not showing any sign of moving away.
"She only moved when the movement of the train deprived her of support and caused her to lose balance and fall to her death.
"I am satisfied that you merely hoped and assumed she would get out of the way when the train began to move, and on that wholly inadequate basis you took a terrible risk."
The shocking CCTV footage of the teenager's death was shown to the jury during McGee's trial.
Georgia, described to the court as "legless", was seen mistakenly getting off the train just before 11.30pm, and then turning around and leaning against the side as she realised her friends were still on board.
The Birkenhead Sixth Form College student was then seen to stagger and fall down the gap as the train moved off, before stopping after travelling around 30ft.
The defendant will be entitled to apply for parole after serving half his sentence, the judge ruled.