7/7 inquests begin

By Peter Wozniak

Long-awaited inquests into the July 2005 terrorist attacks in London are set to begin.

The hearings, expected to last until March next year, follow much wrangling over their remit and aims.

The inquests do not constitute the public inquiry that some victims’ families have demanded, though witnesses to the hearings will be allowed to be questioned by those present.

The task before Lady Justice Hallett is to determine whether the security services could reasonably have prevented the attacks which saw 52 people killed and many hundreds more injured.

Witnesses will include members of the emergency services who responded to the attacks five years ago.

It remains unclear whether MI5 officers will be called to give evidence in public, though Lady Justice Hallett mandate would suggest this remains a possibility.

Bereaved families have argued that MI5 came into contact with perpetrators months before the attacks and possessed enough evidence to prevent the atrocity.

It is understood that two of the ringleaders featured in a separate investigation into extremist cells 17 months before the attacks.

Criminal trials for men accused of being involved in scouting the bomb sites on behalf of the bombers were completed last year and delayed the beginning of the hearings until now.

Families’ calls for a public inquiry have been consistently rejected, though the intelligence and security select committee did investigate the incident – concluding that MI5 could not be held responsible.