NOVEMBER 22, 1999
The Italians attack Williams again
ITALIAN prosecutors returned to court last week to appeal against the acquittal two years ago of Adrian Newey and Patrick Head on charges of "culpable homicide" related to the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola in May 1994. The prosecutors who lost the original case in December 1997, are once again asking for a one-year suspended sentence for Head and Newey. They continue to allege that Senna's death was caused by a steering column failure and claim that this was badly-designed and poorly modified. The original judgement cleared both men but did not reject the possibility that the steering column had caused the crash.
Lawyers representing Williams asked the court to rule that the steering column was not to blame for the accident - which would then end all further discussion on the matter. They argued that it is impossible to know for certain what caused the crash as a steering column failure cannot be proved and that even if the case could be proved it is not correct to hold them responsible for what happened.
The case is of more than academic interest to Formula 1 because if the verdict is overturned and the two found guilty of the charges, it is likely that the Formula 1 teams will refuse to take part in further races in Italy until the law is changed to avoid the possibility of such things happening again. As long ago as May 1995, FIA President Max Mosley asked the head of the Automobile Club of Italy to campaign for the law to be changed to ensure that racing teams cannot be prosecuted in the event of an accident. In June 1997 a meeting of sporting and legal chiefs in Rome agreed that the law needed to be altered and a request was made to the government but nothing has happened.
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