July 7th victims ‘failed’

The government failed to give the victims and survivors of the July 7th bombings the support they needed after the terror attacks, a new Home Office report finds.

The report praises the emergency response to the four bombs on the London transport network last year, but says lessons must be learned on helping victims.

“In times of crisis, information and support must be readily available and easy to access for those who need it,” said home secretary John Reid.

“Getting the right help in place is of critical importance and we are working hard to strengthen our emergency response.”

The report – which was drawn up following a series of meetings with survivors and victims’ families – finds only the most seriously injured received adequate support from the police and other agencies immediately after the attacks.

Those who sustained only minor injuries, but who have since required psychological help, were allowed to walk away from the scene without anyone taking their contact details. “Many were left feeling forgotten or unimportant,” it warns.

The report also reveals the difficulties faced by those trying to find where relatives or friends were being treated, and says it took too long to identify victims.

“Many bereaved families felt their desperate need to know was ignored by the authorities and that more information about what was happening would have alleviated their feelings of helplessness,” it says.

One of the problems for this was an “overcautious” approach to data protection laws – the report notes there must be a better balance struck between the “wider public good and an individual’s rightful expectation of privacy”.

Meanwhile, it says those trying to find out whether friends and family were caught up in the attacks were unable to get through to the Casualty Bureau hotline, which received 43,000 calls an hour at one point.

Despite the experience of the Boxing Day tsunami in the Indian Ocean, where thousands of people had called an emergency line to check if friends were involved, the July 7th hotline was “quickly overwhelmed” by the volume of calls.

“July 7th last year was a day of infamy and heroism,” said culture secretary Tessa Jowell, but she added: “It is clear that more could have been done to support all those who were caught up in the attacks – on the day and in the weeks and months that followed.”

The government has promised it will learn lessons from the July 7th attacks – however, it is likely to be criticised for rejecting yet again the calls for a public inquiry.