Jurors in the retrial of a man accused of manslaughter following the deaths of four people in the English Channel have been told to put aside "strong emotions" after being sworn in today (January 29).
Ibrahima Bah, whose age has previously been stated simply as 'over 18', is said to have been piloting a small boat when it got into difficulty in UK waters on December 14, 2022, killing several passengers.
Bah, who is believed to be from Senegal, denies four charges of manslaughter as well as an offence of facilitating a breach of UK immigration law.
Only one of those who died has been identified - a male called Hajratullah Ahmadi. The remaining three were referred to in the charges read out at Canterbury Crown Court as "an unknown male person".
The trial in front of Mr Justice Johnson KC is expected to last up to five weeks. Bah will be assisted throughout by a Wolof language interpreter.
The jury of six men and six women, plus two reserves, was told by the judge that Bah had been previously tried for the same five offences but that those proceedings "did not come to a conclusion".
They were also warned to keep "an open mind" in a case that "people may be particularly curious about".
Explaining some of the background to the allegations and the issues to be considered, Mr Justice Johnson told all 14 jurors: "The prosecution allege that the defendant facilitated the commission of a breach of UK immigration law and that he killed four people.
"It's likely to be common ground that the defendant steered a small boat from France towards England and that boat got into difficulties and four people died.
"The prosecution case is that by steering the boat from France to England, the defendant was committing an offence of facilitating the commission of a breach of UK law and as a result four people died. They say he is guilty of four offences of manslaughter.
"The defendant's case is likely to be that he did steer the boat but that he did not know he was facilitating the commission of a breach of UK law and he was acting under duress.
"You may need to consider whether the defendant knew or believed he was acting in breach of immigration law and whether he genuinely or reasonably believed he would be killed or seriously injured if he didn't steer the boat.
"You may also need to consider whether all reasonable people would have recognised there was a risk of death or physical harm to the passengers on the boat and whether the defendant's actions made a significant contribution to the deaths.
"The events you will hear about are distressing. They may well give rise to strong emotion.
"But you will appreciate it is vitally important you judge the case on the evidence and not on the basis of an emotional reaction to what are distressing events."
The trial will be opened by prosecutor Duncan Atkinson KC tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.
The two reserve jurors are expected to be excused, if no problems arise, by the time the court starts to hear evidence from witnesses on Wednesday.