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Shoreham Airshow pilot pleads not guilty to gross negligence manslaughter charges

Andy Hill, the pilot of the Hawker Hunter which crashed on the A27 in West Sussex in August 2015, has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence and one charge of endangering an aircraft.

The pilot, 54, was performing a "loop-the-loop" stunt at the Shoreham Airshow on 22 August 2015 when the vintage jet plummeted to the ground and crashed onto the A27 killing 11 and injuring 13 others.  Mr Hill also suffered serious injuries and was placed into an induced coma before eventually being discharged from hospital.

In order to prove that the deaths were caused as a result of Mr Hill’s grossly negligent act or omission (which would otherwise been deemed lawful) the Prosecution will have to satisfy the jury of all four elements of the four-stage test.  This test, known as the Adomako Test handed down by the House of Lords, states that the Prosecution must show an existence of duty of care to the deceased; a breach of that duty of care; which causes (or significantly contributes) to the death of the victim and that the breach should be characterised as gross negligence and therefore a crime.

If found guilty Mr Hill could fall to be sentenced under stricter sentencing guidelines which are currently in draft form (the consultation period having ended in October 2017).  Prior to these proposed guidelines the Courts would sentence according to precedent cases with only corporate manslaughter having an existing guideline.  The proposed guidelines set a sentence range for gross negligence manslaughter of between one and 18 years.  The Sentencing Council have indicated that they expect the sentence in some gross negligence manslaughter cases to increase.  The current average being one of four years.

Sentencing Council member Mr Justice Holroyde said:

“Manslaughter always involves the loss of a human life and no sentence can make up for that loss. In developing these guidelines, we have been keenly aware of the impact caused by these offences and so the guidelines aim to ensure sentencing that properly reflects both the culpability of the offender and the seriousness of the harm which has been caused.”

A trial date has been set for 14 January 2019 and is expected to last five weeks.


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