Mark Pegram, whose 25-year-old son Sam was one of 157 passengers and crew killed in the crash near Addis Ababa, says the shock move is "unacceptable" and described it as "another slap in the face for the families of those who died."
Relatives of the victims have now filed a legal challenge to the behind-closed-doors agreement to prevent Boeing facing criminal prosecution.
The challenge was issued after it was revealed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) had been drawn up in secret with US prosecutors to give Boeing immunity without the families being informed.
"After everything that has gone before, the way the DPA was agreed in secrecy and without input from the families who lost their loved ones is another slap in the face for the families of those who died," said IT consultant Mark.
“An agreement concluded where none of the families were consulted and which gives Boeing immunity is unacceptable.”
The families’ lawyers have called on the court to delay approval of the DPA on grounds that it violates the US Crime Victim Rights Act, as prosecutors did not confer with families before concluding the agreement with Boeing behind closed doors.
They say the DPA fails to provide any criminal accountability for Boeing and the airline company has never been publicly arraigned in relation to charges against it and, in fact, has not had to appear in open court once.
In addition they claim the US Government misled the victims’ families by denying the existence of an ongoing criminal investigation whilst working with Boeing to resolve the DPA.
Sam Pegram was working for the Norwegian Refugee Council and was on a mercy mission in Africa at the time of the crash. He and fellow UK nationals, Joanna Toole, 36, from Exmouth and Oliver Vick, 45, were among those killed when flight ET302 crashed on March 10, 2019, six minutes after the 737 Max aircraft took off from Addis Ababa, en route to Nairobi in Kenya.
The crash followed the loss of another 737 Max operated by Lion Air, which crashed into the Java Sea in October 2018 killing all 189 passengers and crew.
As part of the DPA, Boeing has agreed to pay fines and compensation totalling £1.8bn.
Most of the British victims’ families are being represented by Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Aviation Law Team, including Clive Garner, who are supporting them in ongoing civil court proceedings against Boeing in Chicago, USA, together with US lawyers.
Clive said: “Our clients have been through so much already and we continue to support them with their fight for justice, accountability and transparency.
“It’s totally understandable that the loved ones of those who died are extremely disappointed and concerned by the terms of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement. To our clients, this agreement looks like an attempt to sidestep proper scrutiny and to avoid holding to account the Boeing Company and any of its senior executives and key decision takers under the criminal law.
“As well as their justified concerns about the terms of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement, our clients are astounded by the lack of any consultation with them by the US authorities before the agreement with Boeing was entered into.
“We continue to work with our colleagues in the US to help the families who we represent obtain the answers they seek and the justice they deserve.”
Joanna Toole’s father, Adrian Toole, added: “What matters to the families is accountability. This agreement allows the Boeing Company and its senior executives to escape being held accountable under the criminal law.
"We also remain concerned about the decision to allow the Boeing 737 MAX to fly again before the publication of the official accident report in relation to Flight ET302. This further adds to the impression that passenger safety and the families’ losses matter less in the U.S.A than Boeing’s commercial interests."
“What we have demanded all along is transparency and our hope is that this legal challenge will provide it and remind the authorities that taking key decisions without consultation will not succeed in covering up wrong-doing.”