Jury into Diana's death

Three senior judges at London's High Court overturned a decision by the deputy royal coroner that she would sit without a jury in determining what caused the deaths of the pair in an August 1997 car crash in Paris.


Lawyers for Mohamed al Fayed challenged Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss' decision to sit alone, arguing that this would give the appearance of impropriety.

Mr Al Fayed's legal team had pressed the judge to call a jury, saying it was the only way the public would be satisfied that proper care was taken over the issues

surrounding the crash.

The judges decided that the coroner would hear the inquest and "shall do so sitting with a jury".

At a hearing earlier this month, the lawyer for Paris' Ritz Hotel – owned by al Fayed and site of some of the couple's final moments – argued that because Butler-Sloss had been the deputy coroner of the Queen's Household, there would be the perception that she "lacked independence," to assess the allegation that Diana

and Fayed had been murdered.

The appearance of independence and impartiality was important "when the death under investigation is the death of a royal princess, mother of a future king, in controversial circumstances, and where royal princes and the royal princess' sister are interested persons," said Michael Beloff, the Ritz lawyer.

Mr Beloff also complained that Butler-Sloss had been involved in a police investigation, which concluded the couple's death was a tragic accident.

"She cannot sit. If she can, she should not. If she does, she must not sit without a jury," Mr Beloff said during the earlier hearing.

Mr Butler-Sloss is a former judge and member of the House of Lords, who had wanted to sit alone because she believed a jury would find it difficult to cope with the volume and detail of the evidence.

The inquest will delve into technical matters on the crash, creating a video simulation and expert testimony.

The inquests could begin only after the investigations into the August 1997 deaths of Diana and Fayed was complete.

A two-year French investigation, a three year Metropolitan Police inquiry in

Britain and repeated legal action by al Fayed have delayed the inquest by nearly 10 years.

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