It is hard now to recall the controversies that preceded the inquests into the deaths of 52 people when the London transport system was attacked by suicide bombers on 7 July 2005.
But there were many, ranging from – at one end of the scale – the expense that the necessarily lengthy proceedings would incur, to– at the other – the view that nothing less than a full public inquiry would suffice. That those objections have long been forgotten reflects the way in which Lady Justice Hallett, appointed to act as coroner, went about her task.
In delivering her verdicts of unlawful killing yesterday, Lady Hallett evinced the same combination of brisk efficiency and humanity she had shown throughout. She noted, too, that the inquests had been completed on time and "significantly under budget". This was quite an achievement and should serve as a model for any similar proceedings in future. She concluded that there was now no need for a public inquiry. That is right.
Along with her verdicts, Lady Hallett made nine recommendations, some of which sounded just a little modest when set against failings that emerged during the inquests. There were two in particular: the dispiriting contrast between the response of some branches of the emergency services and the way ordinary members of the public rushed to help, and the stultifying effect of jargon, which hampered co-ordination of the rescue. Lady Hallett found no evidence, however, that delays had caused additional deaths. Those who died, she decided, were so badly injured that they would have died anyway. She called for better co-ordination and communications between the different services, but stopped short of taking issue with formulaic regulations, saying that necessary procedural changes had already been made. We hope that confidence is justified.
Her other main recommendations arose from specific inadequacies in the workings of the security services. That these emerged at all is also greatly to Lady Hallett's credit, as she insisted that a representative of the intelligence services testify in person, despite considerable resistance from MI5.
When all is said and done, however, the value of these inquests resided in more than the recommendations – essential though it is that they be acted upon. It resided also in the voice it gave to survivors and their relatives. What happened on 7/7 was a multiple atrocity and a tragedy; but it also brought forth extraordinary heroism and humanity. It is right that this uplifting side was also heard.