Government loses bid to keep 7/7 evidence secret

Government loses bid to keep 7/7 evidence secret


Home Secretary Theresa May has lost a legal bid to force the inquest into the 2005 London bombings to hear secret evidence behind closed doors.

Justice Heather Hallett, who is overseeing the inquests into the deaths of the 52 people killed in the suicide attacks, ruled earlier this month that she could not hear evidence detailing sensitive intelligence material in closed session.

She concluded that even if the public could be excluded, "interested parties," such as relatives of the victims, could not.

May mounted a legal challenge to that decision, arguing that disclosing secret information could put Britain's national security at risk.

However, the High Court upheld the coroner's decision.

"It is right that those who lost their loved ones should be able to see and hear all the evidence," said lawyer Clifford Tibber whose firm is representing relatives of six victims.

"It is difficult to understand what information, six years on, is so sensitive and so critical that it can not be made available to the families in some form."

A Home Office spokeswoman said the government was committed to co-operating fully with the coroner.

"Along with many victims' families, we believe a closed hearing for a small part of the July 7 inquests would be the best way for the coroner to consider as much information as possible," the spokeswoman said.

"The court has decided this is not possible and we will consider the judgement carefully."

Hallett said when she made the ruling that she hoped a deal could be reached that allowed the material to be made public.

"I am still hopeful that, with full cooperation on all sides, most, if not all, of the relevant material can and will be put before me in such a way that national security is not threatened," she said.

"I repeat, sources may be withheld, redactions made. I do not intend to endanger the lives of anyone."

The material in question is likely to centre on what the police and MI5 knew about the bombers before the attacks and whether more could have been done to prevent them.

Evidence given at court cases since 2005 has shown that two of the bombers were photographed, recorded and followed by intelligence operatives several times in early 2004 in the company of plotters later jailed for planning attacks using fertiliser-based bombs.

However, previous parliamentary reports have said the security services could not have done more to stop the bombings.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)