May drops challenge to public 7/7 evidence

Homes secretary's attempt to have some evidence heard behind closed doors dropped
Homes secretary's attempt to have some evidence heard behind closed doors dropped

By staff

The coroner running the hearings into the July 7th bombings will not face a legal challenge from the government after her decision to hold all evidence sessions in public.

The Home Office had appealed the ruling by Lady Justice Hallett in November, but this appeal was struck down by a High Court judge.

It means families of the 52 victims of the atrocity in 2005 will be able to attend evidence sessions from intelligence officers involved in the case.

The government made the appeal citing national security concerns if members of MI5 were forced to give evidence in an open hearing, but the coroner stated that the victims' families, as 'interested persons' in the case, could not be excluded.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The government has made clear that it welcomes the coroner's inquests and has said that the security service will co-operate as far as possible.

"This does not mean, though, that we will put lives at risk and undermine our national security by not protecting sensitive material."

"Along with many victims' families, we believe a closed hearing for a small part of the July 7 inquests would be the best way for the coroner to consider as much information as possible. The court has decided this is not possible and we are not appealing this."

Families and campaigners have repeatedly demanded answers from intelligence operatives who, they claim, had been monitoring some of the eventual bombers many months before the attacks.

Now that the government has dropped its legal challenge, their preferred outcome of closed hearings for some sessions will not come to fruition.

"It is clear to us from her judgment of November 3rd that Lady Justice Hallett wants to protect national security, and we will now work with her to take this forward and seek to explore a range of options to this effect."

The hearings have so far focused on the response of the emergency services and the victims' experience of the bombings themselves, but may take on a decidedly political dimension once the operational practises of MI5 come under direct scrutiny.


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