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Bereaved Families Welcome Inquiry into Channel Crossing Mass Drowning (6 June 2022)

Date: 06/06/2022
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Bereaved Families Welcome Inquiry into Channel Crossing Mass Drowning

Families of some of the 27 people who drowned trying to cross the English Channel last year have welcomed an announcement that a full independent inquiry will take place.

However, the claimants are concerned a stipulation by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, that it follow another inquiry, which is not Article 2 compliant, will mean an unnecessary delay.

The families have long sought a public inquiry into the events of 24 November 2021, in particular the adequacy of the rescue operation carried out by the UK coast guard. This request was first put to the Government in December 2021. The families have since provided a substantial amount of evidence to indicate that the boat was in British waters before it sank.

Duncan Lewis Solicitors is representing eight families who between them lost 11 loved ones, including children, on the night, when at least 27 people perished in channel.

Following an exchange of correspondence, the Secretary of State accepts an investigation, which complies with the procedural obligations of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, must go ahead.

The decision to conduct a full investigation is welcomed by the families, who have suffered unimaginable pain in the past 6 months as a result of not only losing their loved ones, but also from remaining in the dark regarding the events of the night, and not knowing whether it would ever be properly investigated.

For the investigation to be Article 2 compliant, the families say the following criteria must be satisfied:

  1. The investigation must be effective or adequate (including being independent and capable of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible for the death);

  2. The investigation must be brought promptly and with reasonable expedition;

  3. There must be a sufficient element of public scrutiny to secure accountability;

  4. The families must be involved in the process to the extent necessary to safeguard their legitimate interests.

The Secretary of State has acknowledged that the ongoing investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (“MAIB”) does not meet the criteria for an Article 2 compliant investigation, but has decided that the further probe should only start once the MAIB investigation concludes.

The claimants have sent a letter before action to the Transport Secretary, welcoming the commitment to an Article 2 compliant investigation, but challenging the decision to await the outcome of the MAIB investigation, including on the ground that the Article 2 compliant investigation would not be sufficiently prompt.

The claimants have asked the Government to respond by 14 June 2022.

Representation: Duncan Lewis Solicitors’ legal team is public law solicitor Maria Thomas, along with caseworkers, Rachel Pask and Rachael Sanders; instructing counsel Chris Buttler QC and James Robottom, of Matrix Chambers.

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