This week I spoke to officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to raise my concerns about the delays in the investigation into the Bournside coach crash in France. Later this month it will be a full three years since the coach full of teenagers and their teachers ploughed off the motorway near the Swiss border. Meanwhile, the families are no closer to knowing what happened.
42 students were on board that coach, as well as six staff and two drivers. Two of the students had to be airlifted to hospital, one in a life-threatening condition. Mercifully no lives were lost, but photographs from the scene made clear how things could have turned out very differently. Many were deeply affected by what happened.
At the time it was reported that French police were investigating the possibility that the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel, but we still don’t know the outcome of that enquiry.
The French authorities have now responded their British counterparts to say that they expect to conclude their investigation shortly. The French juge d’instruction will then write to the various parties who, under French law, are entitled to ask for further enquiries to be made. Then, after a further three months, a decision will be made on whether to bring charges. If a decision is made to prosecute, the process can be expected to take an additional two to three years.
France has a distinguished legal system, and it is important to respect the sovereign right of other nations to order their own affairs. But equally it shouldn't be forgotten that justice delayed is justice denied. Victims and their families are entitled to expect that enquiries will be conducted expeditiously, and wrongdoers held to account where appropriate.
For the sake of the victims of this serious accident I will continue to press, politely but firmly, for the earliest possible progress.