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Bill Wilson successfully represented a company director who innocently arrived back to check his work premises were secure, but within minutes of leaving the property, a large industrial unit was engulfed in flames. Numerous fire-fighters attended the scene and it took hours to bring the fire under control and extinguish it. Damage was said to have ran into millions, involving not only the unit itself, but the numerous vehicles inside and the adjourning properties. Members of the public made thirty one separate “999” calls to report the fire, the first being only 5 minutes after the premises were secured. Flames were said to have been bellowing 15 feet from the highest point in the roof space. Over the following days, numerous Insurance Assessors carried out detailed forensic examination, which resulted in Bill’s client being arrested and interviewed at length (over 5 hours) on suspicion that he was responsible. Both the Police and the Insurance Experts claimed that the fire must have been started by him as it was inconceivable due to the veracity and timings of the fire, that he was innocent. This culminated in a further interview many months later and despite maintaining his innocence, he was charged with the offence of arson. Bill’s client had always contended that although he had been welding in the unit earlier that morning, he had left at lunchtime and merely returned to check that the premises were fully secure at the end of the day before the weekend. He had been inside for approximately 10 minutes and upon leaving simply locked up. He had absolutely no knowledge of the impending fire. The case went to trial lasting three weeks and after hearing all of the evidence, the jury took just over two hours of deliberation to formally return a “Not Guilty” verdict.

The case was extremely detailed and complex, resting very much on evidence from a variety of experts from both the Prosecution and Defence, involving the following aspects of the case:

(i) Intruder entry alarms – activation, use of electronic fobs and accuracy of timings. CCTV was also inextricably linked, owing to the volume of smoke permeated through other units.

(ii) Smoke detectors (PIR Sensors) – activation, tamper proofing, positioning, resilience to heat and again accuracy.

(iii) Seat of fire – determining exact location as this was disputed, due to scorch marks, temperature and flash points. The Prosecution contended there were two separate seats of fire and refused to accept, an alternative put forward by the Defence, which was later found to be correct.

(iv) Fire growth (Smouldering) – The Defence contended that a spark had been the cause which had smouldered for over 7 hours. Aspects of damage, staining and positioning were all ingredients, as indeed was degree when the property was re-entered later in the day.

(v) Flammability of materials in question had to be subjected to laboratory tests, to determine combustion and volatility, under differing sets of circumstances, together with burning rates. 

(vi) Structure of the building, ventilation and specification all had to be checked.

(vii) Fields of vision – positioning  in relation to the determined seat of fire.

(viii) Mobile phone evidence determining location when the client had left the premises and rationale for private calls made.

Due to the seriousness of the case, invariably if the verdict had been other than not guilty, it would have resulted in a significant custodial sentence.

At Bankside Law, we are used to dealing with extremely serious matters which require intensive and painstaking analysis to make sure that no stone is left unturned in the pursuit  of justice and ensuring clients are resolutely defended. There are times when people can unfortunately find themselves through no fault their own becoming a suspect when they are completely innocent and although nothing can ever compensate an individual wrongly accused, particularly the stress and worry of ending up in a trial, they can be satisfied that they will be defended using all the experience gained over many, many years. Bill’s client commented as follows:

"Now I have had a chance to catch my breath after two and a half years of hell, I wanted to write to thank you for your professionalism, commitment to detail and personal support. I couldn’t have made it through without your constant support and encouragement, over and above what your role required. I shall be forever grateful! Looking back on my court case, after my acquittal with its unanimous jury verdict of ‘not guilty’, I am more than ever impressed by how you brilliantly steered my case through the procrastinations of the CPS and navigated the incipient and deeply stressful effects of the repeated postponement of the court case. Each time the prosecution sought yet more evidence and although new Prosecution Barristers were instructed to represent them, you worked with our own expert witnesses and Barrister (Jeremy Barton) to address the situation. I am extremely impressed by how you kept on top of the minute detail and specialist forensic evidence, and the way in which you motivated our whole team throughout. Likewise, such was the professionalism of the team that you put together, when the case finally reached court, even the Judge and Prosecuting Barrister requested guidance because of the complexities the case threw up. As we know, the Prosecution were able to dedicate far more resources than we were at the case and I will always be grateful to you for the way you fought our corner. Without your personal dedication, care and sheer hard work, the outcome may well have been different. I will always be grateful to you."