The owner of Alton Towers is to be prosecuted over the Smiler rollercoaster crash which left five people seriously hurt.

The BBC reports that Merlin Attractions Operations will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre on April 22.

It will face a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Neil Craig, head of operations for The Health and Safety Executive in the Midlands, said: “This was a serious incident with life-changing consequences for five people.

“We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution.”

Two women lost a leg and three others were seriously hurt in the incident when their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track last year.

The news came as Merlin revealed its profits saw a growth in margins last year, despite the incident.

The company, which also owns Legoland, said group pre-tax profits rose 0.3% to £250m from 2014. Visitor numbers across its portfolio increased from 62.8 million in 2014 to 62.9 million last year.

It saw particularly strong performance in its Legoland Parks Operating Group, with like for like revenue growth of 8.2%.

Nick Varney, Merlin Entertainments chief executive, said: “Despite a challenging year, the business delivered a robust performance in 2015. We continued to see a strong trading performance in Legoland Parks and a positive contribution from new business development, opening seven new ‘Midway Attractions’ and expanding our accommodation offering with the addition of 277 new rooms.

“However, 2015 was a difficult year for Merlin following the accident at Alton Towers early in the summer season.

“The safety of our guests and employees must always come first and we have sought to learn every possible lesson to help ensure there is no repeat of what happened on 2 June.

“Merlin has a clear strategy, with clear competitive advantages leaving us well positioned in a dynamic marketplace. Today we have announced our new business development milestone targets for 2020 including 2,000 new rooms, forty new ‘Midway Attractions’ and four new LEGOLAND parks.

“Whilst we remain mindful of macro-economic and geo-political factors outside of our control, we remain confident in the strength of the underlying business and the natural diversification that the growing portfolio creates.”