BLG toasts Di and Dodi inquest win

Barlow Lyde & Gilbert with niche law firm Stephenson Benson & Co won a high court ruling that the inquests into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi al Fayed should be heard by a jury.

In an earlier ruling, Lady Butler-Sloss said only a coroner could give the “careful and fully reasoned decision” the inquests required but today the three judges, lead by Lady Justice Smith ruled against her.

Their main reason for quashing her decision not to sit with a jury was that the Diana case occurred in circumstances which, if repeated, could be “prejudicial to the safety of sections of the public”.

They referred to reported similarities between the treatment by the paparazzi of Kate Middleton, Prince William’s girlfriend, and Diana and ruled that 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.

The judgment also states that Lady Butler-Sloss as the deputy coroner in any case should not sit as coroner to the Royal Household as this is a position that can only be fulfilled by the head coroner.

The ruling was a major victory for Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed who brought the judicial review along with Jean and Gisele Paul, the parents of Henry Paul, the driver who has been blamed for the princess’ death after a road crash in Paris in 1997.

Richard Keen QC of 3-4 South Square, and were instructed by partner Stuart Benson from Stuart Benson & Co for the Pauls.

Thomas De la Mare and Victoria Windle of Blackstone chambers also represented the Pauls as well as partner Stuart Hall from BLG’s client The Ritz Hotel, whose lead counsel was Michael Beloff QC also of Blackstone.

Partner Tom Coates from Lewis Silkin brought Michael Mansfield QC and Navtej Singh Ahluwalia both of Tooks Chambers with Henrietta Hill of Doughty Street to act for Al Fayed.

Ian Burnett QC and Jonathan Hough of 1 Temple Gardens were instructed by sole practitioner Mr Michael Burgess for Lady Butler-Sloss, while Edmund Lawson QC of 9-12 Bell Yard chambers instructed by Metropolitan Police legal director Naz Saleh for the commissioner of the Met.