Anonymity granted for nurse due to give evidence at inquest into death of Royal hoax call victim Jacintha Saldanha


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The Independent Online

A nurse due to give evidence at the inquest into the death of Royal hoax call victim Jacintha Saldanha has been granted anonymity to offer protection against similar media interest.

A lawyer acting for Ms Saldanha's employer the King Edward VII hospital said that excessive Press interest has been a feature of the tragedy thus far and that others should be shielded from it.

"The facts of the case cry out for anonymity for members of staff. It is argued and it is open to argument that these tragic events - at least in part - resulted from media actions and excessive media interest," said Fiona Barton QC, for the hospital.

She added that the nurse should "not come under the same pressure and scrutiny".

And she said that the hospital may seek additional orders granting anonymity to members of staff involved in the incident and its aftermath.

The Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox agreed to grant the order, saying it was "with a heavy heart" because of her desire to preserve the principles of open justice. But, she said, "I feel that this is the proportionate response because of the sensitivities of the case". Dr Wilcox also granted Southern Cross permission to interrogate witnesses when they appear before the court in May this year, naming them a properly interested person for the purposes of the inquest. She also gave the Metropolitan Police, the hospital and Ms Saldanha's husband Benedict Barboza the same status.

Speaking on behalf of Ms Saldanha's family after the hearing this morning, Keith Vaz MP said they hoped the inquest would begin to offer them some closure. "They miss her every day, they are still suffering from enormous grief and they want time in their own way to grieve for her."

He added: "this is the beginning of the end of the legal process but, for them also, it is time to reflect on the life of their beloved mother and wife."

Mr Barboza, 49, and the two children Lisha, 14, and Junal, 16, all attended the hearing at Westminster Coroner's Court this morning.

The inquest will take place on May 2 and will hear from hospital staff, including the chief executive John Lofthouse.

According to the lawyer for Ms Saldanha's family John Cooper QC, they hope it will help them find out why she was put in charge of answering external calls, including those from the media. Mr Cooper QC also told the court: "there may also be an issue as to whether Southern Cross did or did not contact the hospital on a number of occasions, maybe four or five, prior to the broadcast being made, there is dispute...certainly, as far as we are aware, no such contact was made".