THE DISCLOSURE PROJECT
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
7/7 Bombings: MI5 accused of gagging justice ...WHITEWASH by the Goverment
Lawyers for the families of those killed in the bombings argue coroner should be allowed to go into detail about murders
Thursday 17 February 2011 17.29 GMT
The families of those killed do not want 'a sterile, bare conclusion' to the inquests, their lawyers have said. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian
has been accused of attempting to gag justice by restricting the verdicts of the inquests into the victims of the 7 July attacks.
The families of those killed in the bombings do not want "a sterile, bare conclusion" to the inquests, their lawyers said, arguing instead that the coroner should be allowed to go into much greater detail about how the 52 victims were murdered.
MI5's legal team argued that by law only "brief, neutral and factual" verdicts can be recorded. But Patrick O'Connor QC, for the relatives, said that the bereaved families would be disappointed and the public "quite astonished if ... we were literally kept to the kind of one, one-and-a-half, two-sentence verdict in the inquisition that is suggested by some.
" He added: "The state of justice is very often depicted blindfolded, but never gagged."
The families are concerned that the coroner could deliver a brief verdict that their loved ones were unlawfully killed but fail to rule on whether the security agencies could have prevented the atrocities or whether the emergency services could have saved more lives.
Traditionally, short-form verdicts like "natural causes" or "unlawful killing" have been recorded at the end of inquests.
But it is now common in more complicated cases for coroners and juries to opt for a longer "narrative verdict" setting out the circumstances of the death.
O'Connor suggested the 7 July coroner should be able to record a narrative verdict running to dozens of pages. But Neil Garnham QC, for the home secretary and MI5, said such a verdict "would have to be short, in the sense that you could not prepare a detailed factual statement, and it would have to be factual and neutral in the sense that it could not include statements of opinion or judgment."
Lawyers for the bereaved relatives said in written submissions to the inquest: "The families we represent want a meaningful end result – an explanation about what exactly happened to their loved one; what, if anything, went wrong pre-7/7 and on the day; laying to rest unjustified concerns or suspicions; and for any appropriate recommendations to be made by the coroner to ensure that lessons are learned from their loved ones' deaths.
"What they do not want is a sterile, bare conclusion of 'unlawful killing', accompanied by the likely time of death and basic registration details only.
"They want an end result which reflects the evidence over the five months of the hearings, and to the extent possible answers their questions about their loved ones' deaths."
But Neil Garnham QC, for the Home Secretary and MI5, said: "It is, we submit, clear that a narrative verdict is permissible in these inquests.
"But it would have to be short in the sense that you could not prepare a detailed factual statement, and it would have to be factual and neutral in the sense that it could not include statements of opinion or judgment."
The coroner, Lady Justice Hallett, who is sitting without a jury, said she would not make a ruling on her legal powers before hearing the rest of the evidence and further submissions from the lawyers.
The inquest into the attacks, which is sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in
, began in October and is due to finish next month.
On Monday the coroner will hear evidence from a senior MI5 officer about whether the security agencies could have prevented the attacks.
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