COUNTY NEWS: Shoreham airshow tragedy pilot to face criminal charges
The pilot involved in the Shoreham airshow tragedy will face criminal charges, families of the 11 victims have been informed this evening.
Andrew Hill, 53, of Standon Road, Standon, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, will be charged with 11 counts of gross negligence manslaughter and one count of endangering an aircraft, the Crown Prosecution Service has announced today (Wednesday, March 21).
Eleven men died when the Hawker Hunter jet he was flying crashed during a display on August 22, 2015.
They were: Maurice Abrahams, 76, of Brighton; Dylan Archer, 42, of Brighton; Anthony Brightwell, 53, of Hove; Matthew Grimstone, 23, of Brighton; Matthew Jones, 24, of Littlehampton; James Graham Mallinson, 72, of Newick; Daniele Polito, 23, of Goring; Mark Reeves, 53, of Seaford; Jacob Schilt, 23, of Brighton; Richard Smith, 26, of Hove and Mark Trussler, 54, of Worthing.
The families of the victims were informed at a private meeting in Lewes this evening.
Simon Ringrose from the CPS Special Crime Division said: “The Crown Prosecution Service has considered a full file of evidence received from Sussex Police in relation to the deaths of 11 men at the Shoreham Air Show in 2015.
“At approximately 1.20pm on 22 August 2015, a Hawker Hunter aircraft piloted by Andrew Hill attempted to perform a loop manoeuvre as part of an aerobatic display.
“The aircraft failed to complete the manoeuvre and crashed onto the A27 dual carriageway.
“Eleven men who were either in vehicles on the carriageway or standing by the roadside were killed in the incident.
“Mr Hill was thrown clear of the aircraft and although seriously injured he survived.
“Sussex Police conducted a thorough and detailed investigation into the incident and in November 2017 submitted a full file of evidence to the CPS in relation to the actions of the pilot, Andrew Hill.
“In accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, I have considered whether there is sufficient evidence to charge Mr Hill with any offence and if so whether it is in the public interest to do so.
“Following a careful review of the evidence I have found there is sufficient evidence to charge Andrew Hill with the manslaughter by gross negligence of the 11 men who died.
“I have also authorised a further charge against Mr Hill of endangering an aircraft, contrary to Article 137 of the Air Navigation Order 2009.
“Mr Hill will be formally charged with the offences and will appear before the courts in due course.”
Mr Hill is due to appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 19 April.
Sussex Police spent months investigating Mr Hill following the tragedy. A full file was delivered by Sussex Police to the Crown Prosecution Service at the end of November last year.
In January, Tim Loughton, East Worthing and Shoreham MP, criticised a lack of progress with the case, describing the families as being in a ‘disgraceful’ state of limbo.
He said during a Westminster Hall debate: “The families still have no idea whether anyone will be charged and held responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. That is disgraceful.
“Of course we want a thorough investigation of what happened, but does it really need to take this long?
“The CPS needs to make a decision one way or the other as to whether a prosecution can go ahead, and if one cannot, it needs to explain fully to the families why there are not grounds for a prosecution.”
The meeting between the families and the CPS comes ahead of a pre-inquest review into the eleven deaths, which is due to go ahead at the coroner’s court in Crawley on Monday (March 26).
West Sussex Senior Coroner Penelope Schofield has had to postpone the pre-inquest review several times to await a decision by the CPS.
She has previously indicated that a full inquest could be held in the autumn if no criminal charges were brought - however the inquest may have to be suspended as the CPS has decided to bring criminal charges.
A decision by the Legal Aid Agency not to extend funding from the exceptional cases fund to the victims’ families when the inquest takes place has been slammed by Mr Loughton as ‘extraordinary’.
Almost 5,000 people have called for the decision to be reversed through a petition started by Claire Miles, whose nephew Daniele Polito was the youngest of the 11 men who died.