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7/7 bomber's widow loses legal aid bid

Cathy Gordon,Pa
Friday 27 August 2010 15:21 BST
The aftermath of the 7/7 bombings in London's Tavistock Square
The aftermath of the 7/7 bombings in London's Tavistock Square

The widow of one of the 7/7 suicide bombers today lost her High Court bid to overturn a decision refusing her legal aid for representation at the upcoming inquest into the deaths of 52 people in the attacks in London in 2005.

Two judges in London dismissed the challenge by Hasina Patel, whose husband was plot mastermind Mohammed Sidique Khan, over the refusal to provide her with funding.

It had been argued on her behalf at a hearing earlier this week that the decision to deny her legal aid was "unfair, irrational and unlawful".

But today Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Silber said the decision by the Lord Chancellor "cannot be described as unreasonable or irrational".

Lord Justice Thomas said the court was told that Ms Patel's position "was that she was interested to understand why her late husband and the other bombers acted as they did" and that what she was seeking "was an opportunity to ask questions of witnesses at the inquest which bore on their knowledge and experience of her husband and others".

The judge said: "Far from providing any information that might assist the wider public interest, she has flatly and unequivocally declined the opportunity to do so.

"Although requested by this court to show how she could help establish why her late husband and the others whom she knew acted to murder fellow citizens, she has provided not an iota of evidence to us which could show how in some way she could bring a wider benefit let alone a significant benefit to the inquests or to the understanding of the victims of the bombing."

He said there was "no basis on which the Lord Chancellor could properly have come to any decision other than the one he had reached".

It emerged in April that ministers had rejected two applications for legal aid by relatives of the bombers after ruling they did not meet the criteria for public funding for their lawyers.

The Government already agreed that legal aid will be offered to the families of the four 7/7 bombers' innocent victims of the attacks.

It was argued on behalf of Ms Patel - who has since remarried - that it had been "inconsistent" not to also grant her funding.

Lord Justice Thomas said the case for the Lord Chancellor was that he was "entitled and indeed obliged" to make the decision he did.

Dismissing her case, the judge said there was "no reason that we can discern why the interests of the claimant, on the basis of the information before us, cannot be fully and properly dealt with by her giving a statement of the background of her late husband and others to the legal team acting for the coroner".

He added: "Indeed as a resident of the United Kingdom it must have been her duty to have supplied all that information by now."

Lord Justice Thomas said: "She has, in short, despite the indulgence shown by the court, refused to provide the information on which the Lord Chancellor could begin to discern any basis on which separate questioning by her legal representatives could assist in establishing why her late husband and his associates set about murdering fellow citizens."

It was obviously a matter of "significant wider public interest to understand why someone such as the claimant's late husband, who was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, and led his life in the United Kingdom, should have decided to participate in the murder of a large number of innocent people".

Suicide bombers Khan, 30, Hasib Hussain, 18, Shehzad Tanweer, 22, and Jermaine Lindsay, 19, met at Luton station on the morning of July 7 2005.

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 the number 30 bus at Tavistock Square at 9.47am.

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

Families of the victims of the 7/7 bombings later expressed "relief" at the decision.

Clifford Tibber of Anthony Gold solicitors said: "This decision is a huge relief for the families.

"The thought of Ms Patel receiving public funding and the threat of her applying to take part in the inquests has added a new level of unnecessary stress.

"We could never understand what she thought she could add by her presence at the inquests.

"The families can now focus on the inquests starting in October."

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