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Lord Justice Scott Baker

Assistant Deputy Coroner of Inner West London

Opening statement for a Pre-Inquest Hearing
for the inquests into the deaths
of the late Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed

Court 73 Royal Courts of Justice

13th June 2007 at 10 am.

I hope it goes without saying that these inquests will be open, fair and transparent and that all relevant evidence that can be obtained will be put before the jury. I am also determined, against that background, that the inquests should be concluded as expeditiously as possible. This is obviously of importance to the families involved, as well as being in the public interest.

Another aspect of which I would like to remind everyone is cost. Inquests are quite unlike civil litigation where the losing party is likely to bear a substantial proportion of all the costs. Here we are concerned with an investigation the cost of which (apart from those steps taken by any of the interested persons) falls on the taxpayer. Those costs are going to be considerable bearing in mind the events took place in France and many of the witnesses are French and live abroad. The longer the inquests last the greater those costs will be. It is the duty of all of us to keep them within reasonable bounds.

We shall need to exercise a tight discipline to ensure that unnecessary witnesses are not called and unnecessary or repetitive questions are not asked. I envisage agreeing a timetable with counsel for the evidence of each witness and sticking to it. Knowing most of the counsel as I do I am sure there will be close co-operation between counsel to the inquests and counsel for the interested persons. I would like in particular to welcome Mr Richard Keen Q.C. of the Scottish Bar and trust that he receives the same warmth and hospitality from the English Bar as I received from the Scots when I participated in a Fatal Accident Inquiry in Edinburgh many years ago.