Fire investigations UK

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William Paynter

In the summer of 2013 I instructed Robert Milne as a fire expert in an arson trial before Kingston-Upon-Thames Crown Court. The defendant was accused of starting two fires, a week apart, in her flat. Our defence in relation to the first fire was that her son had lit it and our defence in relation to the second fire was that it was an accident and she had fallen asleep whilst smoking and her bed had caught on fire. Both fires were investigated by highly experienced public sector¬†Fire Investigation Officers. ln relation to the second fire the Fire Investigation Officers asserted there were multiple deliberate fire seats and that accelerant had been used. Mr Milne, both in his report and when giving evidence at trial before the Jury, was able to demonstrate why the Fire¬†Investigation Officers’ conclusions were wrong both in terms of how they interpreted the evidence as well as being outdated in terms of applying the science. It also became apparent that the Fire Investigation Officers had not disclosed a further set of over one hundred photos of the second fire and when those were produced, Mr Milne rapidly analysed this further evidence mid-trial. The client was unanimously acquitted on both counts, which was no doubt very largely because of the thorough and credible work of Mr Milne, despite two Fire Investigation Officers purportedly being sure of her guilt.