We reported a year ago on the conviction of two men, Mark Connolly and Roy Kennett, for their part in the death of four track workers after a rail wagon that they were unloading rolled out of control down a hill.

Connolly, who before the fatal accident had disconnected the brakes on the wagon and had filled empty hydraulic pipes with ball bearings to give the impression everything was in order, and Kennett, who was aware of this but had hidden it from a supervisor, were both convicted of gross negligence manslaughter and breaches of health and safety legislation.

The two men subsequently appealed their convictions on the basis that the judge’s summing up to the jury at the conclusion of the case was seriously flawed in a number of respects. However, on 1 March the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment on the appeals, upholding the convictions. The Court of Appeal decided that although the judge’s summing up was in some respects “marginally deficient”, “standing back and looking at the matter as a whole” the convictions were safe.

On the length of his sentence, however, Connolly was more fortunate. The Court of Appeal reduced it with the less than clear explanation; “we have reached the conclusion that a 9 year sentence was in all the circumstances rather too great. We have not reached a conclusion, nor do we think it is possible to reach that conclusion, by any rationally explicable process which reaches a particular number. But, in our judgment, the right sentence in this case was not 9 years' imprisonment, but one of 7 years' imprisonment.”