Royal staff will not sit on Diana jury, coroner rules

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The Independent Online

The path has been cleared for a jury made up of members of the public to record verdicts on the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed, after lawyers for the Queen conceded that a hearing in which jurors were selected from the Royal Household would create the perception of bias.

Dame Elizabeth Butler- Sloss, the coroner, endorsed Buckingham Palace's position, ruling that it would be "inappropriate'' for a jury working for the Royal Family to sit on the inquests.

Her ruling means that, should she decide in March that the inquests are suitable for a jury, then its membership will be selected from a pool of lay people. Under 19th-century law, a jury hearing an inquest into the death of a member of the Royal Family is expected be chosen from members of the royal household.

At a preliminary hearing in the High Court yesterday, the retired judge and deputy royal coroner said that there should be joint inquests into both deaths.

Yesterday's development will please Mohamed Al Fayed, who still believes that his son, Dodi, was murdered in an establishment conspiracy involving the Royal Family and MI5.

The Royal Family yesterday made it clear that, although they had nothing to say on the issue of whether there should be a jury, if there was to be one, then its membership should not comprise members of the Royal Household.

Dame Elizabeth said she now hoped that a full inquest could begin as early as May. Before then, she would address the issues of witnesses, the scope of the inquiry and the outstanding matter relating to holding the inquests with a jury.