7/7 inquests to probe MI5 role

Survivors of the July 7 bombings said they have been "shunted aside" today after being excluded from inquests into the deaths of the 52 people who were killed.

Some of those affected by the 2005 atrocities said they were disappointed not to be granted a special status by the coroner which would allow them to question witnesses.

But they pledged to throw their full weight behind Lady Justice Hallett as she tries to get answers for what happened and whether more could have been done to prevent the attacks.

Lady Justice Hallett said the inquests into the deaths of the 52 people killed by suicide bombers would be heard later this year without a jury. She said the inquiry would scrutinise alleged failings by police and the security services as well as the immediate aftermath of the blasts.

She said inquests into the deaths of the four suicide bombers would be held separately, if at all, while questions over public funding for legal representation remained unanswered.

The survivors' solicitor Clifford Tibber said he would not rule out appealing against the coroner's decision at the Royal Courts of Justice earlier today.

Jacqui Putnam, who survived the Edgware Road blast, said many questions still needed answering.

Speaking at a press conference she said: "Our role now will be one of answering questions, which we will do, but our questions are not going to be answered.

"Once again we have been shunted aside by officialdom and those questions may or may not be answered.

"They need to be answered because they involve the safety of everyone on public transport.

"It is very important that we remember that the inquests are for families and loved ones of those who died.

"But this is our only voice, we have been led to believe this would be our opportunity for us to have a voice and now we don't."

Tim Coulson, who survived the attacks, said the "door is still open" to appeal against the decision, but they would still have some input as witnesses.

He said: "It hurts to be reminded but there are occasions when it is essential to be reminded of security issues in our country.

"Not to upset people, not to make everybody screw everything down so tightly you cannot move, but to bring about a general awareness.

"If one more person is put in the position some of us are in that is one too many, especially if one more person dies. That is unacceptable."

Janine Mitchell, whose husband Paul survived the King's Cross explosion, said the inquests would be a chance to finally examine the work of MI5.

She said: "We have been campaigning for a very long time now for an inquiry, we are just ordinary people caught up in an atrocity.

"We have been very concerned that there were serious failings and it seems that this is the case.

"We do not know what went on and we are relieved that someone independent of Government is going to examine what happened.

"We put all our faith in the coroner to do that, so if anything did go wrong it can be fixed."

Mrs Mitchell added that she accepted there would be some sensitive intelligence information, but said that did not mean people should not be held to account.

Ernest Adams, whose son James was killed at King's Cross, said he was "delighted" inquests into the bombers' deaths would not be held at the same time.

He said: "The important thing to find out first of all is if it could have been prevented.

"We do not want to go around looking for blame, we just want to know if it could have been prevented and lessons learned for the future in the operation of the security service."

Liz Kenworthy, who survived the Aldgate East blast and has been recognised for her bravery, said she hopes the inquest will help her "move on".

She said: "It has taken five years, both for survivors and bereaved people. Every time this comes up, it reopens our wounds.

"For us, it will be a chance for us to finally tell our story and get this put to rest. That is the only reason I am involved here.

"All I would like to do is go along, tell of what I found at Aldgate East and to understand more of what went on.

"It was such a momentous day, it is something I think about every day now and I was not even hurt. It is something that has affected my entire life."

Mr Tibber said he would not rule out calling for a further public inquiry until the inquests have concluded.

He added that legal representatives have 14 days to consider whether to appeal against the coroner's decisions, but said such a move would be "unlikely".

Mr Tibber said grieving relatives and survivors had a mixed reaction to the judgment, but had full confidence in the coroner to "fearlessly" get the answers they want.

He said: "There is hope that if the response of the emergency services did in any way fail those that needed treatment, that lessons will have been learned from those failings and appropriate measures put in place in the future to ensure they do not happen again.

"It is hoped that finally the question of whether July 7 could have been prevented will be answered.

"It appears the police and Security Service did in some way fail. Why did they fail? Could more have been done? Have lessons been learned and will effective measures be put in place in the future?"

Mr Tibber added that Prime Minister David Cameron asked questions about whether an inquiry would be held while in opposition and Nick Clegg once called for a full public inquiry.

Speaking at the Royal Courts of Justice, Lady Justice Hallett said survivors would "play an important part in the process" and their interests would be taken into account.

She said: "The scope of the inquest into the 52 deaths will include the alleged intelligence failings and the immediate aftermath of the bombings.

"To my mind it is not too remote to investigate what was known in the year or two before the alleged bombings. Plots of this kind are not developed overnight."

Lawyers for many of the bereaved families have campaigned for a broad-ranging investigation of whether the authorities could have prevented the 2005 attacks.

They want to use the inquests to ask MI5 officials why they did not follow up plot ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan after he was witnessed meeting known terror suspects 17 months before the attacks.

The security service argued this questioning would be both unnecessary and impossible because doing so would require the disclosure of top secret intelligence files.

Counter-terrorism officers photographed and followed Khan in early 2004 during an inquiry into a group of extremists planning a fertiliser bomb attack.

But MI5 concluded that diverting resources to place him under detailed investigation or surveillance was not justified.

It was disclosed last month that West Yorkshire Police have only just discovered that they held Khan's fingerprints on file for 19 years before the attacks.

July 7 2005 dawned with London still buzzing from learning the previous day that it had won the 2012 Olympics, but the euphoria was short-lived.

Suicide bombers Khan, 30, Shehzad Tanweer, 22, Hasib Hussain, 18, and Jermaine Lindsay, 19, met at Luton station that morning.

They took a train to King's Cross in London, then hugged and separated to carry out their deadly missions.

Within three minutes of 8.50am, Tanweer detonated his bomb at Aldgate, Khan set his device off at Edgware Road and Lindsay blew himself up between King's Cross and Russell Square.

Hussain detonated his device on board a number 30 bus at Tavistock Square at 9.47am.

As well as killing themselves and 52 others, the bombers injured more than 700 people.

A fortnight later another four would-be suicide bombers launched failed attacks on the Tube and a bus, leading to police marksmen shooting Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes.

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