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Summerland campaign group seeks fresh inquiry into tragedy

Summerland - Image Credit Noel Howarth via iMuseum

Lawyers instructed to help overturn misadventure verdict

The Justice For Summerland Campaign Group says it is to take legal action in an attempt to reopen the inquest into the deaths of the holidaymakers who died in the tragedy.

On 2 August 1973, 50 people were killed and 80 injured when the Summerland leisure complex on Douglas promenade caught fire.

The campaign group says Phoenix Law has accepted instructions to act for the families of the victims to try and overturn the 'death by misadventure' verdict originally recorded.

The human rights lawyers recently secured a new inquest and successfully overturned the verdict in the Stardust Fire Case, to one that concluded that the 48 killed in the Dublin nightclub in 1981 were unlawfully killed.

It says its notified the Attorney General of its intention to apply for a fresh inquest with formal application following in the weeks ahead.

'Horrific Mistakes'

A spokesperson for the campaign group says: 'A number of our members have been campaigning for many years to get this perverse verdict overturned in an attempt to bring some justice for those who perished, the survivors, the injured and their families, some of whom, lost parents, grandparents and all affected by this horrific and preventable disaster. 

'Over the last year, we have stepped up our engagement with both the UK and Isle of Man Governments but to no avail. 

'Despite the support of a couple of our local MPs (for which we are grateful) the UK Justice Secretary seems intent on brushing concerns under the carpet. 

'The Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, Alfred Cannan told us in May of last year that he would seek to help with the inquiry being re-opened and look into horrific mistakes with the repatriation of some of the victims’ remains. 

'We also asked for the site to be maintained in a respectful way and a fitting memorial, proportionate in size to this huge and devastating disaster to be provided. 

'There is nothing to suggest that he has sought to address any of these issues. We are now left with no option other than to pursue a formal application to the Attorney General for a fresh inquest which would investigate all of the circumstances, consider all of the evidence and come to a just verdict. To now have an organisation of the stature of Phoenix Law supporting us is an enormous boost. 

'We are hopeful that with their support, we will at last get an unbiased and fair inquest, a verdict reflecting the truth and achieving a proper and just outcome to bring some closure for the hundreds of people that have been affected by and suffered as a consequence of this horrific disaster which clearly should never have happened.'

'An Insult to Victims'

Darragh Mackin, Partner, Head of Public Law, Inquests and Inquiries at Phoenix Law says: 'The Summerland disaster remains one of the greatest miscarriages of justice on these isles. The current record to which depicts a verdict of ‘misadventure’ is not only viewed as an insult by these victims, but it is wholly unreflective of the evidence.

'Given the developments in forensic science and the existence of new evidence, the Summerland disaster now calls for a fresh investigation so that the record can once and for all be corrected and that these families may achieve truth, justice and accountability. We have this week, notified the Attorney General of our intention to apply for a fresh inquest touching upon this disaster and a formal application will follow in the weeks ahead.'

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