Customer hurt in bombing pursues High Court action against Soho pub

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The Independent Online

One of the people injured in the Soho pub bombing last year has taken the first steps towards bringing a High Court Case against the owner of the pub for failing to warn its customers of the risks of an explosion.

One of the people injured in the Soho pub bombing last year has taken the first steps towards bringing a High Court Case against the owner of the pub for failing to warn its customers of the risks of an explosion.

Gerald Wheatley, who was one of several injured when the bomb exploded in the Admiral Duncan on 31 May 1999, has been granted legal aid to pursue a case against Scottish and Newcastle, the owner of the London pub.

Three people, including a pregnant woman, were killed in the attack by David Copeland, who was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey earlier this year.

He denied murder but admitted causing three explosions at Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho in which scores of people were injured.

At the trial, it emerged that he was able to gain easy access to the pub to plant the bomb, which was in a large blue bag. Evidence was also given that the whole frontage of the Admiral Duncan was open despite warnings by the police that the area was a potential target.

As a result of the attack, Mr Wheatley, 49, sustained burns to his face and hands, burst eardrums that left him partially deaf, broken bones and extensive cuts and bruises. Mr Wheatley was discharged from St Thomas's hospital in June 1999 but claims that he has still not regained his full health.

After the attack it emerged that the Metropolitan Police had warned that an extreme right-wing bomber was targeting minority groups and that gay haunts could be at risk. The Jewish community at Golders Green was also placed on alert.

The Admiral Duncan is believed to have received a specific warning of the dangers.

In what is expected to be a strongly contested action, Mr Wheatley's claim will depend to a large extent on the nature of the police warning and what steps Scottish and Newcastle took in response to it.

Andrew Belmont, Mr Wheatley's solicitor, said the claim could lead to other customers coming forward. "It would seem that if one person is successful then everyone else would be successful in a similar case," he said. "Mr Wheatley is far from fully recovered and I know similar cases are also being investigated."

Under recent reforms to the law, it is no longer possible to issue a writ without taking certain preliminary steps and obtaining information from both sides. Mr Belmont said he was currently in communication with Scottish and Newcastle's solicitors with a view to completing the initial steps.

A spokesman for the brewery said yesterday that its solicitors were dealing with the matter and that it was unable to comment further.