Friday 6 May 2011

Inquest - London Bombs of 7th July 2005

With Addendum of 15th May

The Rt. Hon. Lady Justice Hallett DBE - Acting Deputy Coroner for Inner West London - has delivered a verdict of unlawful killing in relation to 52 deaths caused by the detonation of bombs in London on 7th July 2005 - often referred to now as 7/7.  The learned Coroner's closing remarks are available on the Inquest website.  Lady Hallett has also issued a report under Rule 43 of the Coroner's Rules 1984 - as amended by the Coroners (Amendment) Rules 2008.  The Rule 43 report contains 9 key recommendations - summarised here.   Such a report may be issued where a Coroner is satisfied that the evidence gives rise to a concern that circumstances creating a risk of other deaths will occur or continue to exist in the future, and is of opinion that action should be taken to prevent the occurrence or continuation of such circumstances, the Coroner may report the circumstances to a person who the Coroner believes has power to take action.

The Inquest explored in detail the circumstances of each of the 52 deaths and looked at the adequacy of the emergency response.  It was common ground that the evidence did not justify the conclusion that any failings on the part of any organisation or individual caused or contributed to any of the deaths.  The Coroner took considerable account of expert knowledge as to the effect of bomb blast on individuals in close proximity to the detonation.  Lady Hallett was satisfied, applying a balance of probability test, that each would have died whatever time the emergency services had reached and rescued them.

The inquests
were "Jamieson" type inquests - R v North Humberside Coroner ex parte Jamieson [1995] QB 1 as opposed to wider "Article 2 compliant" inquests- R (Middleton) v West Somerset Coroner [2004] 2 AC 182; [2004] UKHL 10.  

Lady Hallett also ruled that there was no cause to resume the inquests into the deaths of the four bombers.   Their families had not made any representations that the inquests should be resumed.  Under the Coroners Act 1988 s 16(3) an inquest may be resumed only if, in the opinion of the Coroner, there is sufficient cause to do so.  A campaign group referred to as "July 7th Truth Campaign" was ruled not to be an "interested person" - Coroners Rules 1984 - Rule 20(2).

Note for students:  The Middleton case - ( as well as the subsequent Sacker case) - is an excellent and beneficial example of the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 on domestic law.   For inquests, in which State responsibility was implicated,  it was necessary to read the Coroners Act 1988 in a manner compliant with the requirements of Article 2 (Right to Life).  Thus, the Coroner had to consider not just how the deceased came by his death but also in what circumstances the death occurred.

Addendum - 15th May 2011:  A number of articles written by staff at the Royal United Services Institute will be of interest to readers.  Jennifer Cole (RUSI Head of Emergency Management) - "7/7 Inquest: Be careful of demanding the impossible."   Cole looks at improvements which have been made since 2005 - (e.g. introduction of Hazardous Area Response Teams etc) - and makes the point that many of these changes have not been drawn to public attention.  She also expresses concern at the possible impact of financial cuts in the present climate.  Margaret Gilmore looked at the separate question of whether 7/7 was actually preventable.

The blog of Michael Meacher MP looks at whether MI5 misled the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.   Whether there should have been an inquiry into 7/7 is a serious question - see "7/7 and the public inquiry dilemma" - Channel 4 News 16th August 2007.

The government sought to have some of the inquest hearings heard privately.  This matter was addressed in the High Court - see "High Court upholds 7/7 secrecy ruling" - UK Human Rights blog 1st December 2010.  In November 2010, the Secretary of State for Justice informed Parliament that a Green Paper on the use of intelligence in judicial proceedings would be issued in the summer of 2011.


  1. This verdict, with that of Tomlinson last week, is a vindication of open Inquests, thorough Coroners and conscientious Juries: each "fundamental" (to use that much abused word) parts of *our* Law that some would weaken for political, economic and administrative advantage.

    Meanwhile, I note another step in this Coroner's steady path to Chief Justice.

  2. @ Westengland - para 1 - I agree. Para 2 - very likely - Lord Judge is coming up 70. Hallett LJ is about 62 and has been in the Court of Appeal since 2005. She has got to be a candidate as and when there is a vacancy.

  3. Beverley McLachlin is Chief Justice of Canada. Sian Elias is Chief Justice of New Zealand. Maybe the time is right for England and Wales to finally get a female Lady CJ.

  4. Was Lady Hallett right to name the 4 accused in her Rule 43 report given that the families of these men had been denied legal representation in these proceedings?

    The July 7th Truth Campaign submission for resumption of the Inquests into the 4 can be read here.

  5. •  Section 16(3) gives the coroner discretion to decide whether or not to resume an adjourned inquest after criminal proceedings have been completed.

    There were no criminal proceedings so on what basis can Lady Hallett refuse to resume the Inquests into the 4?

  6. @ Bridget (reply 1) - Hallett LJ gave her reasons for naming them at para 8 of the R43 report and one of those reasons were that the names were already well known anyway.

    An inquest verdict may not suggest criminal or civil liability but the R43 report is not the verdict so a Coroner who decides to make such a report clearly has greater freedom. Could an intelligible R43 report have been written without reference to the names? After all, when making recommendations there is a need to set out, in sufficient detail, the factual arguments in support of that recommendation.

    The refusal to give the families legal aid was on the basis that the "published exceptional funding criteria" were not met. As far as I can see (and I may be wrong), Ministers did not amplify this and say why the criteria were not met.

  7. @ Bridget (reply 2) - If I remember this correctly, criminal proceedings relating to conspiracy to cause explosions took place against 3 men who were acquitted (at a second trial). {They were convicted of something else}. Those criminal proceedings may have triggered Coroners Act 1988 s.16(1)(b) and, therefore, eventually entitled Hallett LJ to apply s.16(3). It would, I think, have been better had Hallett LJ set out why she considered that she was entitled to use 16(3).

    Regarding Hallett LJ's actual application of s.16(3)- It seems that the families of the 4 men had opportunity to make representations about whether the inquests should be resumed. Hallett LJ said:

    "There is one other matter to which I must now turn. I also have jurisdiction over the inquests into the deaths of Mohammed Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer,Hasib Hussain and Jermaine Lindsay and thus the responsibility of deciding whether or not I should, in my discretion, resume any or all of those inquests.

    Under section 16(3) of the Coroners Act 1988, an inquest may be resumed only if, in the opinion of the coroner, they have sufficient cause to do so.

    In my ruling in May of last year, I adjourned consideration of this issue to give time to the families of these men to advance submissions if they wished to do so. However, nothing was put before me at that time that would have justified resumption of any of their inquests and I made it clear that I would require good and proper reasons before doing so.

    On 11 March 2011 I ordered that any person wishing to make representations should do so by 18 March. In the event, none of the families have sought to argue that any of these inquests should be resumed or, indeed, submitted any representations at all. The only submissions I have received have come from an organisation calling itself the July 7th Truth Campaign. I have considered those submissions, but in the light of all the evidence I have heard during the 52 inquests, I consider they have not provided any sufficient reason to resume the inquests into the four bombers. In any event, I consider that the organisation does not fall within the legal criteria for an interested person contained in rule 20(2) of the Coroners Rules 1984. In the light of the position adopted by their families, and given that the inquests into the deaths of the 52 victims have led to the most rigorous scrutiny of the events of 7 July 2005, I can find no cause whatsoever to resume the inquests into the deaths of the
    four men."

    Obviously, we do not know why their families chose not to make any representations though, as we do know, they had no legal aid.

    What verdict will be recorded for the 4 men? I am not sure at this stage. "Suicide" would seem appropriate - there must be sufficient evidence here to say that they intended to kill themselves - along with others. Their own deaths was an inevitable consequence of detonating the explosive substance and people can be taken to intend such consequences. [Extensive case law exists on this point of intention].

    Further questions relate to Inquiries. The Inquiries Act 2005 is an example of exceptionally unsatisfactory law-making. I am of the view that it has seriously damaged the whole concept of a truly independent inquiry. {Analysis of that Act is another story but a distinguished former Canadian Supreme Court Judge said that no "self-respecting judge" would conduct an inquiry under those conditions}.

    It was interesting that, in 2010, Teresa May said that she reserved the right to call an inquiry and thus stop the inquest by using Coroners Act 1988 s17A. However, she did not actually do so.

    I note that there are still calls from some of the victim's families for an inquiry. I would now be very surprised if one is actually held.

  8. In fact a very skewed process has been invoked for the 4 accused.

    An Inquest which had no representation for the 4 to challenge the police evidence or ask for witnesses to be called and evidence adduced.

    An Inquest with no jury.

    A criminal trial in which the evidence was not examined as the 3 accused had no knowledge of the attacks and therefore had no basis on which to challenge any of the evidence.

    In fact, one of the prosecution's opening statements was shown to be false due to the intervention of J7.

    Overall, there has been no due process in establishing the guilt of the 4 accused and without a truly independent public inquiry held outside of the IA05 there never will be.

    Which leaves only J7 examining the evidence as investigative journalism is now a thing of the seemingly distant past and justice has not been seen to be done.

  9. @ Westengland - you may be interested to read what Joshua Rozenberg had to say in the Law Society Gazette 12th May:


  10. 15th May - Addendum - some interesting items by the Royal United Services Institute

  11. Thanks for the reference, indeed of interest. Heather Hallett was one of those people whom you notice, at an early stage of their career ( in HCH's, when she became a judge), has *something* suggesting further advancement, possibly to the top of their profession (as Joshua Roszenberg *undoubtedly* reads "Law And Lawyers", he can note Law bloggers and their commenting readers' anticipation of who the next/next-but-one Chief Justice will be).

    Not that I would claim predictive powers: some years ago Owld West's Almanack thought Brenda Hale could be Mistress Of The Rolls and Patricia Scotland, Lady Chancellor...and didn't consider Igor Judge a candidate for the "Collar Of Esses".

    Meanwhile, following my prediction about legal devolution: who will be Wales's first "Brif Ustus Cymru"?

  12. Brif Ustus Cymru - currently Lord Judge.

    Since the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 - the LCJ is LCJ of England and Wales.

    You raise a good question - I don't have an answer. It is clear that the Welsh Assembly is producing a lot of Welsh Measures with the result that the law in Wales is diverging from that of England. There seems little doubt that more power will be devolved. Whether that extends to permitting them to develop a distinct criminal law is a further issue.

    i was interested to see what Abersytwyth University had to say and also this protocol relating to the Welsh language being used in courts in Wales.