QC challenges lack of jury in Diana inquest

THE decision that Baroness Butler-Sloss should sit as coroner and preside over the inquests into the deaths of Dodi Fayed and Diana, Princess of Wales, was condemned as “fatally flawed” by a QC at the High Court yesterday.

And there was an “eerie similarity” between the way the paparazzi “hounded” Diana and now did the same to Prince William’s girlfriend Kate Middleton, the court heard.

The princess, 36, Mr Fayed, 42, and their chauffeur Henri Paul died when their Mercedes crashed in Paris in 1997.

Dodi’s father, Mohamed al Fayed, the Ritz Hotel Ltd and the parents of Henri Paul are applying for High Court orders to prevent Mrs Butler-Sloss conducting the inquests in her role as the deputy coroner of the Queen’s Household, or alternatively as assistant deputy coroner for Surrey.

Michael Beloff QC is challenging Mrs Butler-Sloss’s refusal to empanel a jury to hear the forthcoming inquest into the deaths of Dodi Fayed and the princess following “hot pursuit” by photographers.

Mr Beloff, for the Ritz Hotel Ltd, argued a jury was the appropriate body to make recommendations for changes to the law to stop similar harassment of royalty and celebrities in the future.

He said: “There is no doubt at all on the evidence available — in particular the report of Lord Stevens — that the paparazzi were involved in the pursuit of the vehicle which crashed on the night in question.

“We respectfully submit that it is quite clear this is, alas, a recurrent problem in contemporary society.

“There are those who have in recent months — in particular in regard to Kate Middleton, who has a relationship with Prince William — said there is an eerie similarity in the way in which the paparazzi are now hounding this young lady and the way in which they hounded the late Princess Diana.”

Michael Mansfield QC, appearing for Mohamed al Fayed, accused Mrs Butler-Sloss of making a “deeply flawed” decision in January not to sit with ajury. He said that a jury added “considerable power” to an inquest’s ability toinfluence changes in the law to stop the recurrence ofbehaviour, such as that of the paparazzi, which was “prejudicial to the health or safety of the public”.

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