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By Daily Mail Reporter Last updated at 10:42 AM on 11th March 2011
The families of victims of the July 7 terrorist attacks in London have called for 33 recommendations to be heeded in a bid to save more lives in any future atrocities.
Over the course of the five-month inquest into the deaths of 52 people in the suicide bombings of 2005, families have heard various details as to how prevention the response to the incident could have been improved.
Now lawyers for the bereaved families have told the coroner, Lady Justice Hallett, that there are specific areas where action needs to be taken to protect public safety in the future. Improvements: The victims of the July 7 bombings have asked for 33 recommendations to be heeded
They include nine points relating to alleged failures by MI5 and the police in preventing the attacks on London's transport network on July 7 2005.
The recommendations also demand the use of plain English by the emergency services to avoid misunderstandings which could cost lives.
Lady Justice Hallett hit out at baffling management jargon last week, saying: 'When it comes to a situation like a major incident, people do not understand who and what the other person is.'
To help that, there is a call for improved communication between the varying emergency services, and for firefighters to be allowed more discretion to act, instead of awaiting orders from superiors before entering a disaster scene.
Better training for frontline staff at Transport for London, the need for first aid boxes and specialist stretchers at tube stations and improved methods of dealing with triage patients also feature.
Another request calls for a ban on the unregulated sale of hydrogen peroxide, which was used as an ingredient in the home-made bombs.
The inquest into the deaths caused by bombs on three Tube trains and a bus is drawing to a close.
It has a wide-ranging remit to examine whether the emergency services' response was adequate and whether MI5 and the police could have prevented the attacks.
On Thursday the coroner heard submissions about what findings she should make under 'Rule 43', which gives her powers to make recommendations to prevent deaths in the future.
Barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher outlined the measures sought by the bereaved relatives.
She said: 'For many of the families today in one way is the most important part because it is looking to the future and seeing whether lessons can be learned from the atrocities of 7/7 and whether the deaths of their loved ones can contribute to saving others.'
The inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice in London began in October and heard oral testimony from 309 witnesses over five months before finishing its evidence sessions last week.
Lady Justice Hallett, who is sitting without a jury, has not indicated when she will announce her findings, although it is expected to be before Easter.
The security service is to introduce new procedures for anti-terrorist work in the wake of the 7 July London bombings
Caroline Davies guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 19 July 2011 18.10 BST MI5 is set to introduce new procedures for anti-terrorist work after accepting recommendations from the 7/7 coroner.
The security service said record-keeping and procedures for showing photographs to informants were more comprehensive, due to technological advances, than at the time of the deaths of 52 people in the 2005 London bombings.
It was planning a new IT system to more easily record key investigative decisions, after coroner Lady Justice Hallett urged it to improve record-keeping.
The government, MI5, the emergency services and Transport for London published their responses to nine recommendations made by Hallett following the 7/7 inquest, which recorded verdicts of unlawful killing.
One of the most acute criticisms of the security services was over a photograph of Mohammad Sidique Khan, the bombers' ringleader, which was so badly cropped before being passed to the FBI that it could not be shown to an informant.
MI5 said it used "wet film" and a scanner in 2004, but digital photography and better software had improved the overall quality of photographs shown to agents.
Hallett handed down her verdicts on 6 May, concluding: "The evidence I have heard does not justify the conclusion that any failings on the part of any organisation or individual caused or contributed to any of the deaths."
In its official response, the government stated reviews were being conducted regarding inter-agency training of frontline staff for dealing with major incidents. Transport for London was examining the way it was alerted to serious incidents on the Tube, and how it in turn informed other agencies.
There were also reviews under way into how common rendezvous points for the emergency services were established at the scene of major incidents, as well as how the emergency services could confirm that the power in the Tube tracks had been turned off.
Other areas being examined include the carrying of first aid kits on London Underground trains, and the type of stretchers stored at Tube stations.
"Lady Justice Hallett's inquests have been more wide-ranging than any previous reports on the 7 July bombings, considering both whether the attacks were preventable and the emergency service response to the attacks," said the government in response.
"The government, the security and intelligence agencies and emergency responder communities are constantly seeking to learn lessons and to improve the response to national emergencies, including from terrorist-related incidents. This includes identifying and learning the lessons from the 7 July attacks, from other incidents and through training and exercising."
It continued: "There have been a considerable number of improvements made to these arrangements since 2005, including much closer working in the counter-terrorism and law enforcement communities and a significantly greater investment of resources to tackle terrorism.
"The UK's counter-terrorism strategy has continued to develop in response to the evolving terrorist threat and the government intends to publish a revised version of that strategy later in the year.
"This report has set out in detail the next steps that the government will take to address the concerns raised in the coroner's report. The government will review progress by the end of March 2012 to ensure we have learned the lessons from 7 July 2005 and improved our preparedness and ability to respond to any future terrorist attack against a complex and evolving threat picture."
A “plain English” guide put forward by the government to help the emergency services communicate better in the wake of the July 7 bombings has been criticised by the bereaved families.
By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent
8:29PM BST 19 Jul 2011
In her final comments, Lady Justice Hallett, the coroner at the inquests, said the emergency services should “demand from their staff the use of plain English.”
In their official response the government said on Tuesday that a Cabinet Office "lexicon" which already exists would help sort out communication problems.
But the "Emergency Responder Inter-Operability Lexicon" has previously been criticised in the inquest hearings by Christopher Coltart, representing some of the bereaved families, who said the guide was a “nonsense.”
It includes a definition of “evening civil twilight,” as “that period between sunset and total darkness when it is necessary to use artificial light to carry out most activities.”
Clifford Tibber, who also represents a number of the families, said: “Jargon is alright within an organisation but they need to understand each other in emergencies and if they are falling back on this lexicon, they are missing the point.”
The government said that it recognised commonly understood terminology was critical to ensuring effective communications.
It claimed that its “lexicon” was considered “best practice” and added: “Uptake of the lexicon has been widespread amongst government departments, the emergency services and local responders.”
“Work will continue to promote and develop the lexicon as new terms emerge and as we update the lexicon we endeavour to ensure that where possible definitions are in plain English,” it added.
In her findings, the coroner said the bombings could not have been prevented but criticised MI5’s recording of decisions about how it assessed whether to follow up targets.
Lady Hallett said she was concerned about “the confusion in the system of assessment in operation at that time,” and was unable to accept the assurances of a senior MI5 officer, known only as Witness G, “that all is now well.”
The security service failed to follow up Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, the leaders of the bombers, after they appeared on four occasions as part of a separate surveillance operation into an al-Qaeda bomb plot more than a year before the bombings.
Following criticism that they failed to send a picture of Sidique Khan to a key informant in the US because it was so badly cropped, the government said MI5 now relied on digital technology.
MI5 has also promised to improve its record keeping, saying the system for prioritising targets and recording the decisions has “significantly changed” since 2005 and is “more comprehensive.”
The government’s response said MI5 has made “considerable investment” in recent years in technology to strengthen its ability to handle information.
It said the huge amount of data that the security service holds is recorded on the system which makes it easier for it to be searched and analysed.
The prioritisation of investigations is now recorded within MI5’s new investigative IT system, introduced in 2009 and changes to the priority of an investigation are independently audited by a specialist section within the security service’s international counter-terrorism investigation section.
Individual suspects are also assigned an importance when a record is created and a “tier” within high priority investigations.
“Intrusive investigative actions” such as intercepting phone calls are graded for the anticipated intelligence that can be gained from the proposed action.
The system helps to ensure that resources are directed with an understanding of the whole picture of the investigation.
But the report said there were “still limits on what it is feasible for the security service to record about its decision making processes, as resources deployed on record keeping of decisions below a certain threshold of importance would be better deployed elsewhere.”
It said that was particularly the case in respect of decisions not to take specific actions but the area was under review.
MI5 is also planning to introduce a new investigative record in the coming year, to record more easily key investigative decisions, including prioritisation choices, which will add the context of the decision and assist managers review investigations.
The government made no promises to fund air ambulances, as recommended by the coroner. It said it would review progress on all recommendations at the end of March next year.
Agencies 'fully accept' lessons of 7/7 inquest Ross Lydall 19 Jul 2011
A series of recommendations to ensure all lessons are learned from the July 7 bombings were accepted in full by the Government today.
Coroner Lady Justice Hallett set out nine areas for improvements when she ruled in May that the 52 victims of the Tube and bus attacks in 2005 had been unlawfully killed.
They included Transport for London being asked to consider providing first aid kits on Tube trains, the Government to consider funding the air ambulance and the security services to ensure they used better quality photos of terror suspects. Cropped images of two bombers were not used by the FBI because they were of such poor quality.
Today TfL commissioner Peter Hendy said mass casualty kits were now provided at 170 locations, 36 NHS "pods" had been set up at busier stations, and stretchers had all been replaced. However, Tfl is still considering whether to carry kits on trains. He told the judge: "I can assure you that TfL will be rigorous in its consideration of and, where practicable, the implementation of your recommendations."
The Government said a review would be ordered into the funding of the air ambulance and said that "mass casualty equipment vehicles", carrying enough medical supplies for 350 casualties, had been provided to all ambulance trusts.
Efforts are being made within the EU to restrict the supply of hydrogen peroxide and similar chemicals that can be used by bombers. All pictures are now taken with digital cameras.
Lady Justice Hallett also asked for a review of the way the security services categorise targets, for a review of the way the emergency services work together on a major incident and for the use of "plain English". But she said that none of the 52 victims could have been saved regardless of when they received medical care.
Solicitor Clifford Tibber, who represented some of the families, called for a time frame for the reviews.
1.47 Over recent years there have been a small number of inquests in which sensitive material has been relevant to proceedings. In the majority of inquests in England and Wales36 it has proved possible to deal with the challenges of handling sensitive information. Ad hoc solutions have been found that have enabled inquests to fulfil their purpose – determining how and in what circumstances the deceased person died, and providing a more thorough investigation where the circumstances of the death require it.
For example, in the inquest into the 7 July 2005 bombings, the coroner ruled that she could not hold a closed procedure. This meant that she could not take account of some relevant material. PII applications were used to protect some of the sensitive material. In that case the coroner was able to reach a verdict and deliver a comprehensive ‘Rule 43 Report’ based on the evidence adduced in open court. She commented that the public summaries were detailed and, together with the disclosed documentation and the lengthy oral evidence, allowed the most intense public scrutiny of the relevant issues. However, because of the absence of any closed procedure, the Security Service was unable to put all the material before the Coroner, and while this did not prevent this inquest reaching its conclusion, the situation may be more challenging in future inquests.
1.48 It is conceivable that in a different case an inquest might not be able to properly investigate a death, for example if the coroner or jury were not able to take into account all relevant information. In some cases, coroners have concluded that the exclusion of material means that they have been unable to complete their investigation. Only when it has been possible to disclose more of that information (for example, with the passage of time) have such inquests been able to proceed.
1.49 In some cases where an inquest is not able to proceed, it may be possible to hold a public inquiry.37 However, public inquiries are costly and complex (the four public inquiries established by the previous Government into deaths during the Troubles in Northern Ireland are expected to cost in excess of £300 million), and have always been an exceptional means of last resort to investigate deaths of significant public interest. The number of inquests where sensitive information is relevant continues to be small, but they are also likely to include particularly high-profile cases and will certainly also include cases where it would be absolutely disproportionate to have a public inquiry simply to be able to deal with a small amount of sensitive material.
1.50 This Paper will examine whether reform of inquests is warranted in order to enable more full and comprehensive conclusions, while ensuring that relevant sensitive material is safeguarded appropriately.
This post has been edited by Mark Gobell on Mar 6 2012, 09:41 AM
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