Saturday, 29 January 2011

7/7 Inquests: Open Justice or No Justice?

"I thought this was about open justice but now it seems to be more about getting any sort of justice."
- Clifford Tibber, legal representative for six bereaved families

On Thursday 18 November, the 7/7 Inquests will be delayed while the Appeal Court hears Home Secretary Theresa May's challenge, on behalf of the Intelligence Services, to Lady Justice Hallett's decision to hear evidence in open court. Hallett's decision to sit without a jury has already pre-empted any opportunity for 'ordinary members of the public' to see the evidence.

Her apparent 'concession' to view the evidence with the families of the bereaved and their legal representatives, without the public or press present at the hearings, appears to be the issue. The state, it would appear -- which itself could require the signing of the Official Secrets Act (or non-disclosure agreements similar to that undertaken by survivors when viewing the site reports, or those with access to the Lextranet evidence base [p17: 6] ) - by any witnesses to the evidence -- has no desire for anyone to see any of the evidence, not even those who suffered the pain of bereavement on 7 July 2005 and have had to also bear the injustice of waiting five years for the inquests while the state pursued one tenuous prosecution after another:
Most, if not all, of the relevant material can and will be put before me in such a way that national security is not threatened.

"I am all too aware, given the events of the weekend, of the unenviable task facing the Security Services. I repeat, sources may be withheld, redactions made.

"I do not intend to endanger the lives of anyone. I do not intend to allow questions which might do so. I do not intend to allow questions which I know to be based on a false premise or which I know to be misleading. There may be times when the parties will simply have to accept my ruling without demur. I may have to forbid certain questions. I may have to rephrase them.

"Finally, I wish to emphasise I do not intend to make findings adverse to the Security Services which I know to be false."

Justice Hallett appears to have already decided the parameters of the questions that will be allowed and what the outcome should be. Despite this, the Home Secretary obviously knows that there is evidence which cannot be allowed into even a very limited 'public domain'.

This raises the issue, and the spectre of Tony Blair's promise to "bring together all the evidence that we have and we will publish it so that people, the victims and others, can see exactly what happened". Wasn't all the evidence already presented to the Intelligence and Security Committee? Wasn't all the evidence contained within its final report, completed in July 2008 and eventually published in May 2009? Hallett is content to have names redacted - redactions which already exist within the ISC report - so what could the Intelligence Services possibly have known prior to the events of 7 July 2005 which cannot be presented to the public even in redacted form?
The Review addresses the many unanswered questions which arose following the conviction of the 2004 fertiliser bomb (CREVICE) plotters. In making our judgements about whether anything was missed or overlooked, we have focused on the information available at the time.

The Review contains some highly sensitive intelligence and an unprecedented level of operational detail. As a result, there are some instances where we have agreed that information must be redacted from the published version of the Review in order that individuals are not put in danger, that current operations are not compromised and that our enemies do not learn of the capabilities of the UKâ??s intelligence and security Agencies. There are also some instances where the courts have ruled that information cannot be published. These redactions have been agreed with the Agencies, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and government departments. We wish to note that the Security Service, the Metropolitan Police Service and West Yorkshire Police not only co-operated fully with our inquiries, but were helpful in seeking to ensure that we could publish as much material as possible and thereby provide the public with as full an account of these matters as possible.

It became clear that West Yorkshire Police hadn't 'co-operated fully' with the ISC when it was revealed at a pre-Inquest hearing in April 2010 that they had two set of Khan's fingerprints on file:
POLICE have only just discovered that they held the fingerprints of the ringleader of the July 7 bombings on file before the attacks, it was revealed today.

West Yorkshire Police said it "recently" found two sets of Mohammad Sidique Khan's prints in its archives - one of which dates from when he was arrested aged just 11.

The force has launched an inquiry into the records as it prepares for the upcoming inquests for those killed in the 2005 London atrocities.

West Yorkshire Police took Khan's prints for the first time when he was arrested in April 1986, aged 11, for being involved in receiving stolen goods.

The second set of prints was taken by the force in February 1993, when Khan was arrested for assault.

The records came to light after Scotland Yard contacted West Yorkshire Police last month to check whether they had the July 7 bomber's fingerprints on file.

Details of the discovery emerged at a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London to decide what form the inquests should take.
West Yorkshire Police said in a statement: "In preparation for the inquests into the events of July 7 2005, West Yorkshire Police recently found two sets of fingerprints in its archives belonging to Mohammad Sidique Khan, of which it was previously unaware.

Max Hill QC, counsel for the Metropolitan Police, stressed that this was not the first time that Scotland Yard asked West Yorkshire Police for detailed information about Khan.
Source: Daily Mail
"What Have They Got To Hide"
Clifford Tibber, one of the lawyers representing families, said the decision was "outrageous".

"The coroner has already said that there are no circumstances in which she will allow the personal safety of any member of the Security Service or the interests of national security to be put at risk," said Mr Tibber.

"The prime minister and the deputy prime minister are both on record as supporting a public inquiry. The Government have twice failed to introduce legislation to hold inquests in secret and now they are trying to introduce it through the back door. What have they got to hide?"

The families of the bereaved have been refused legal aid to be represented at this hearing despite being awarded exceptional funding by the Legal Services Commission to be represented at the 7/7 Inquests.

Exceptional funding was denied to the families of the four accused men, and they now have to sit in silence while accusations of the accused's involvement go unchallenged and unquestioned. Despite Inquest law forbidding the apportioning of guilt or blame, the four accused men should rightly have remained the 'alleged' or 'apparent' bombers rather than being described as the de facto bombers. Only when or, more realistically, if the Inquests reopen into the death of the four accused - Khan, Hussain, Tanweer and Lindsay - is there likely to be an opportunity for their families to question witnesses or examine the evidence. And, even if the inquests were to be opened into the four accused, based on its decisions regarding the inquests to date, it is unlikely that the Legal Services Commission will make the same 'exceptional funding' available for them to have legal representation.

Do there exist any lawyers, many of whom have made a pretty penny on the back of so many trials of supposed 'terrorists', who would be prepared to represent the families of the accused men on a pro-bono basis or better still, for free?

Meanwhile, the families of the bereaved, all of whom have waited over five years for these Inquests to commence, rightly feel outraged at the machinations of the State in its endless attempts, cloaked beneath the all pervasive banner of 'national security', to prevent them from knowing the truth.
"The Security Service have this 'get out of jail' card to trump all others when they say it's a matter of national security. They have tried this so many times it's like crying wolf."
- Graham Foulkes, father of David Foulkes

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