7/7 victims given three hours with report on attacks
Victims of the July 7 bombings today accused the Government of “shabbily” trying to skew coverage of a key parliamentary report on the attacks that will be published tomorrow.
The report, by Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, is intended to provide the most definitive assessment so far of the events leading up to the attacks and, crucially, whether they could have been prevented.
It is expected to clear MI5 and police of any significant failings and state that, on the basis of the intelligence available at the time, they could not have been expected to stop the attacks and were justified in their decision to focus their efforts on other dangerous extremists instead.
The full findings - which are based on confidential information provided by the security service and Scotland Yard as well as evidence from recent terrorist trials - will be unveiled tomorrow in Parliament and at a Westminster news conference held at the same time.
Victims and their representatives hit out today, however, over restrictions which mean that they will given only three hours to study the report, which contains more than 100 pages of detailed analysis, before it is published - even though ministers and others have had access to it for weeks, if not longer.
They said the curbs - which also include a ban on bringing lawyers to help them to assess the findings and the confiscation of their mobile phones - would prevent them from responding properly to the findings and failed to treat them with the “dignity” they deserved.
Rachel North, who was represented victims and families of the attacks since being injured in the Piccadilly line bombing between Russell Square and King's Cross, said she was dismayed by the way the report's publication was being handled and warned that the lack of time given to study the document was likely to lead to a slanted portrayal of the conclusions in tomorrow's coverage.
She added that the failure to give longer to study the findings would also place unfair pressure on some traumatised and distressed victims and accused the Government of trying to “tilt the playing field” in its own favour.
“I would say that they have treated us shabbily. They have had the luxury of time, legal opinion and all kinds of support. We will have virtually no time, no legal advice and no support and that is going to make things extremely difficult for us,” she said.
“The playing field will not be a level one - instead it will be extremely tilted in their favour. There are people among us who are very vulnerable, who are distressed and exhausted after four years of fighting to get to the bottom of this and I would just like to see us being treated with dignity.”
Ms North said that a fairer option would have been to release the report to the victims at the weekend under a strict confidentiality agreement and to also allow their legal representatives to analyse the findings.
She said that would have ensured that the victims were able to issue a properly considered response to the report when it is published tomorrow and to highlight any questions which, they believed, had either not been answered or had been inadequately dealt with.
Clifford Tibber, a solicitor with the London law firm Oury Clark, which represents 25 of the July 7 victims, backed Ms North's concerns and accused the Government of deploying spin tactics to ensure that a “one-sided” view of the inquiry's committee's was presented to the public.
He added: “The Government has had since July last year to read most of this report and they are going to release it by holding a press conference as soon as it is published without any chance for it to be read properly beforehand. If that isn't one sided, I don't what is.
“It's going to put us at a big disadvantage in responding to the report and because the Government's spinners will have been working on it, the public is going to get a one-sided impression of what it says.”
Today's report follows the publication in 2006 of an earlier report by the Intelligence and Security Committee.
This stated that it was “understandable” that MI5 had chosen not to investigate July 7 bombers Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shezhad Tanweer - who had been seen meeting a known terrorist - because of a lack of evidence about their violent intent at the time and the need to focus on other apparently more dangerous extremists.
The new report was commissioned by the Prime Minister after facts presented in subsequent terror trials raised new questions about whether the bombings could have been prevented.
Ms North and other victims are continuing to press for an independent inquiry and are expected to resume their legal battle to force the Government to order one in the coming weeks. source: http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23693773-details/7+7+victims+given+three+hours+with+report+on+attacks/article.do