Fishmongers’ Hall and London Bridge Inquests - No5 barristers secure scope determination

Tue, 04 Aug 2020

The hearing of the inquest by the Chief Coroner into the 2019 Fishmongers’ Hall and London Bridge terror attack is set to commence shortly after Easter 2021.

Henry Pitchers QC, Philip Rule and Ramya Nagesh, of No5 Barristers' Chambers, are instructed to represent the family of Saskia Jones at the inquest. They are instructed by Jennifer Bates, partner at the national firm Plexus Law.

The attacks at the Fishmongers’ Hall took place on 29 November 2019, and were reported nationally as a terror-related tragedy. Usman Khan, a convicted terrorist, stabbed Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt to death whilst attending an event at the hall. Khan then ran onto London Bridge, where he was tackled by members of the public before being shot and killed by police.

The inquest is to be conducted by Chief Coroner HHJ Mark Lucraft QC, who chaired the inquests into the 2017 Westminster Bridge terror attack and the 2017 London Bridge and Borough Market terror attack.

Scope of the inquests

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions the initial preparation of the inquest has been conducted by way of written submissions. On behalf of the family of Saskia Jones Counsel have successfully argued for a broader scope than had been suggested by Counsel appointed to the Inquest assisting in the Chief Coroner’s task. As a result of Counsel’s submissions the inquest will consequently examine the circumstances that led to the deaths to include the systems in place relevant to the question whether the responsible public authorities may have consequently failed to prevent the events from occurring and causing the deaths.

In his first legal ruling in the case, the Chief Coroner accepted the arguments of No5’s counsel, and has declared the scope of the inquests to include, amongst other matters-

  • the management of Khan after his release from prison by probation officers and others (including relevant systems and procedures governing his management);
  • any monitoring of Khan after his release from prison by police and/or the Security Service (including relevant systems and procedures govern[ing] his monitoring);
  • arrangements for Khan to attend the Learning Together Event at Fishmongers’ Hall (including systems and procedures relevant to arranging his attendance); and
  • the preparations for the Learning Together event at Fishmongers’ Hall and the security arrangements at the Hall (to include preparations by Cambridge University and the Fishmongers’ Company, and to include the adequacy of precautions and security having regard to the nature of the event and those attending).

The Chief Coroner ruled that-

72. The family of Saskia Jones have made submissions that some further topics ought to be added to those suggested by CTI. In summary, they suggest that topics be included addressing systems for (a) early and continued release of terrorist prisoners, such as Khan; (b) management of former terrorist offenders, such as Khan, on release from prison; (c) monitoring of former terrorist offenders, such as Khan, on release from prison; (d) use of premises for events at which former terrorist offenders are to be present; and (e) educational organisations with responsibility [f]or young people organising events at which former terrorist offenders are to be present.

73. In my judgment, it is legitimate to make clear that the inquests will consider systems and practices relevant to some of the topics for inquiry which have already been identified. I have accordingly decided to amend the topics concerning management and monitoring of Khan to make reference to systems governing these matters. I have also decided that a new topic should be added to cover arrangements for Khan to attend the Learning Together event, to include systems and procedures relevant to arranging his attendance…

Interested persons – the families

One matter which is to be addressed at a future hearing of a Pre-Inquest Review in October 2020 shall be whether or not the family of the killer, Usman Khan, should be permitted the status of Interested Persons in the inquests into the death of Saskia and Jack, and not simply in relation to the inquest concerning Khan’s death. The family of Saskia strongly opposes that. The Chief Coroner shall hear those arguments and make a ruling in October 2020 at a hearing.

Further information

The website for the Inquests, carrying a full copy of the first ruling and directions, is now available here:

https://fishmongershallinquests.independent.gov.uk/documents/

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