Skip to comments.Fayed challenges judge's decision to hold Diana hearings in private
Posted on 11/30/2006 11:03:50 PM PST by Mrs Ivan
Secret inquest hearings into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales are planned for next month, it emerged last night.
Before that, Lord Stevens will release the findings of a three-year police investigation into the case. His report, due to be published on Dec 14, is widely expected to conclude that the car crash that killed the princess was an accident.
Lady Butler-Sloss, the retired senior judge who will sit as the coroner, wants to hold preliminary hearings on Jan 8 and 9 without the press or public present. But her decision is to be challenged in the High Court by Mohamed Fayed, whose son, Dodi, died with the princess in 1997.
The Egyptian businessman again claimed yesterday that the princess and her companion were murdered in a secret plot by the Royal Family. He alleged that Lady Butler-Sloss, who has been appointed Deputy Coroner of the Queen's Household in order to preside over the inquest, had "taken her first step towards ensuring that the cover-up continues".
Accusing her of taking part in an "Establishment plot", he maintained that her decision to hold the preliminary hearing in private was an attempt to stifle public debate.
"I have tirelessly fought for truth and justice against an army of dark forces who do not want the truth to become public," Mr Fayed said. "I simply ask for honesty, fairness and openness."
Lady Butler-Sloss, who received a peerage on retiring as president of the High Court Family Division, was appointed to hold the inquests into the deaths of the princess and Dodi Fayed after the full-time coroner, Michael Burgess, said the cases would be "too time-consuming" for him to handle. At a preliminary hearing, the coroner would normally set a timetable and decide who should be legally represented at the hearing.
Buckingham Palace confirmed that Lady Butler-Sloss had invited lawyers for the Royal Household to attend.
A more important decision to be taken by Lady Butler-Sloss at the preliminary hearing is whether to sit with a jury. If so, it would consist of Officers of the Queen's Household rather than members of the general public.
Mr Fayed objected. "A jury of 12 ordinary people should hear all the facts and make up their own minds," he said.
In fact, coroners' juries must consist of seven to 11 members.
The Harrods owner said he was seeking judicial review to "compel" the deputy coroner to sit in public next month "so that Britain and the world at large may judge for themselves".
Section 17 of the Coroners Rules requires inquests to take place in public unless it would be in the interests of national security for the public to be excluded. But the Department for Constitutional Affairs said there was "no statutory requirement for pre-inquest hearings to be held in public."
The problem facing Lady Butler-Sloss is that the inquest into the princess's death was opened and adjourned by Mr Burgess in January 2004. If next month's proceedings are to be regarded as a continuation of that inquest, it would follow that they should be held in public.
Mr Fayed is seeking judicial review of the deputy coroner's decision to sit in private next month.
One problem Mr Fayed faces is that the High Court decided in 2001 that he was not an "interested party" in the princess's inquest and not entitled to take part in it.
The princess, 36, and Dodi Fayed, 42, were killed with their chauffeur, Henri Paul, when their Mercedes crashed in the Pont d'Alma tunnel in Paris on Aug 31, 1997. They had been followed by paparazzi photographers after leaving the Ritz Hotel for Mr Fayed's apartment.
A two-year investigation in France blamed Mr Paul for losing control of the car because he was intoxicated and driving too fast.
That conclusion is likely to be endorsed by Lord Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner who was asked by Mr Burgess to investigate the case. His inquiry, estimated to have cost £4 million, is said to bring together some 20,000 documents and 1,500 witness statements.
But Mr Fayed complained that the report had been kept from him. Lord Stevens had also failed to see or take statements from more than 13 witnesses, he believed.
Mr Fayed's spokesman said he was convinced that the Stevens inquiry was being closed down prematurely by the Government with vital questions unexplored or unanswered because the Government wanted the process out of the way before Tony Blair's departure from Downing Street.
The bitterness and paranoia that a foreigner can experience from being denied UK citizenship astounds me.
Listen everyone. I'm sorry she died, for whatever reason. But....get a life, she's gone, let her RIP.