In a recent twist in the long-running inquests into the deaths of eleven innocent men in the Shoreham Air Show crash, a panel of two judges in the High Court heard an application on 20 December 2021, by the Senior Coroner for West Sussex for an order permitting her to obtain certain protected material.
It has become increasingly clear that in order to fully consider the cause of the crash in August 2015, the Senior Coroner must look at the mental state of the pilot in the moments immediately preceding it. This would include whether any cognitive impairment or conscious and deliberate conduct caused or contributed to the crash.
Some of the material used in earlier criminal proceedings is legally protected, including (though not limited to) video footage shown several times in the public gallery. The Senior Coroner has applied to the High Court for access to this material and the families have joined that application in support.
Sarah Stewart is representing nine of the eleven bereaved families in the inquest proceedings. She explains why the Senior Coroner’s application is important:
“It is crucial that the families have a voice and can be heard on this important aspect. It is in the public interest that the families have confidence in the Senior Coroner’s investigation into the death of their loved ones. The process must be fair and just. Bereaved families must be able to effectively participate on an even footing.”
There have been only a handful of previous applications on this point and the decision in this hearing is likely to set a future precedent.
The crash occurred at the Shoreham Air Show on 22 August 2015. At the show, a Hawker Hunter aircraft failed to pull out of a loop manoeuvre before crashing into the ground on the adjacent A27 road. Eleven people lost their lives, and a further 13 were injured.
We instructed Gerard Forlin QC of Cornerstone Chambers and Kirsten Heaven of Garden Court.
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