THE CORONER due to hold inquests into the deaths of 11 men in the Shoreham Airshow tragedy has lost her High Court bid to get video footage from the pilot’s cockpit.

Andrew Hill survived after the Hawker Hunter jet he was flying exploded into a fireball on a busy dual carriageway at the Shoreham Airshow on August 22, 2015.

The crash was investigated by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which found the crash could have been avoided and was caused by pilot error when Mr Hill flew too low and too slowly while carrying out a manoeuvre.

Mr Hill later faced a criminal trial in 2019, where he was acquitted of gross negligence manslaughter.

At his trial, Mr Hill’s lawyers raised the issue of whether he had suffered some form of cognitive impairment which caused him to fly the plane how he did.

Part of the evidence shown to the jury at the Old Bailey was the video recording from the plane’s cockpit recorded on Mr Hill’s Go-Pro.

After the trial, the AAIB reviewed their investigation and concluded there was “no new and significant evidence of cognitive impairment” and that their findings were still valid.

The senior coroner for West Sussex, Penelope Schofield, will be holding inquests into the 11 men’s deaths, which have been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The coroner had asked for the footage to assess whether a report from a doctor, a paediatric oncologist who is also a friend of Mr Hill, could be evidence that the AAIB investigation into the air crash was incomplete, flawed or deficient in considering cognitive impairment.

Lawyers for the coroner had argued that the paper made a credible suggestion that the AAIB’s investigation of cognitive impairment was incomplete, but said she did not have credible evidence.

Mr Hill and the families of three of the men who died supported the coroner’s request for the footage.

In a judgment on Friday, two senior judges dismissed her bid.

Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Mr Justice Saini, ruled there “is neither credible evidence nor, even adopting her approach, a credible suggestion that the AAIB investigations were incomplete, flawed or deficient on the issue of cognitive impairment”.

The High Court in London previously heard that cockpit recordings are protected from being disclosed for purposes other than safety investigations.

The AAIB had disagreed with the coroner’s request, arguing that giving the footage would have a “significant potential adverse impact on future safety investigations”.

The court heard that the AAIB cannot compel people or organisations to co-operate with their investigations and that the policy of protecting material helps encourage people involved in air accidents to cooperate.

In the judgment, Dame Victoria said: “There is a justified concern that wider disclosure of protected materials would mean that witnesses would refer to, or be advised to refer to, their employer organisation, for example manufacturers, operators, regulators, before dealing with the AAIB.”

She continued: “If the AAIB’s most sensitive records were disclosed, principal among them cockpit video and audio recordings and witness evidence, co-operation with other states’ investigatory bodies and overseas manufacturers, operators and product designers would be much more difficult as they would seek to limit their own reputational damage.”

The judge also said that Mr Hill’s wish for the footage to be disclosed was of “little weight”.

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