Conduct of fire deaths inquest challenged: Judge rules that refusal by coroner to call witness was 'unreasonable unlawful'

THE FAMILIES of some of the five people killed last April in a fire at a party being held in a flat at Hove, East Sussex, were yesterday given leave in the High Court to challenge the coroner's handling of the inquest into the deaths.

Mr Justice Latham granted the families leave to seek court orders quashing the jury's verdict of unlawful killing, given yesterday. The case is likely to be heard in London in the next few months.

The two-day inquest at Brighton had been told that Trevor Carrington, 38, an unemployed airline steward, had confessed to starting the fire on 18 April as 'a prank', then two days later threw himself under a lorry.

The families had earlier walked out of the inquest in protest at the refusal of the East Sussex coroner, Dr Donald Gooding, to call a property millionaire, Nicholas Hoogstraten, as a witness to ownership of the flat, which had no fire escape.

At a 15-minute private hearing in London, Mr Justice Latham ruled that the families had an arguable case for judicial review of the inquest on the basis that the coroner acted 'unreasonably and unlawfully' in refusing to call Mr Hoogstraten.

On the first day of the inquest, Colm Davis-Lyons, representing the families, had told Dr Gooding that there was evidence identifying Mr Hoogstraten as the probable leaseholder of the three-storey building.

But, after examining the dossier offered by the families, Dr Gooding said that he could find 'no firm evidence' of such ownership.

The inquest was told that council officers had immense difficulty finding out who owned the building, and ownership changed more than once between 1988 and 1992, so that they were unable to persuade anyone to comply with local instructions to install a fire escape on the upstairs landing, which might have saved some lives.

The latest national guidelines for buildings converted into flats do not recommend the installation of such fire escapes.

The freehold of the building has subsequently been bought by one of the occupants, but at the time of the fire was owned by De Alnie, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. The offshore registration means the names of the company's directors are not open to public scrutiny.

In his summing-up to the jury, Dr Gooding said: 'There can be no doubt that, if a fire escape had been present, fewer people might - and I stress might - have died, but at least they might have had a chance which was denied to them.'

The five who died in the blaze in Palmeira Avenue, Hove, were: Andrew Manners, 29, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire; Mabel Smith Roberts, 46, of Colwyn Bay, north Wales; Timothy Sharpe, 28, of Palmeira Avenue; Paul Jones, 33, of St Michael's Place, and Adrian Johns, 32, of Richmond Place, both Brighton.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living