Sunday, September 17, 2006

Jowell:'We failed 7/7 victims'

Tessa Jowell today in the Sunday Telegraph
I've had several meetings with fellow-survivors of the Piccadilly line suicide-bomb attack, with Tessa Jowell, and John Reid about the aftermath of 7 July. I also gave evidence with other survivors to the London Assembly, after which the London Assembly 7 July Review Committee produced an excellent independent report, making recommendations and charting failings. And the bereaved families, and survivors of the other bombs have also had a series of meetings with the Secretaries of State. I have campaigned for ages, and I still campaign, with other survivors and bereaved families for an independent inquiry into the July 7th bombings ( also see sidebar of the blog). We have been promised a ''Lessons Learned'' report by Tessa Jowell, which I understand is likely to be published this week. I am sure that it will make interesting, but depressing reading.

One of the reasons that I keep asking for an independent inquiry, (maybe something a bit like a 9/11 Commission Report?) is that currently all the reports, recommendations, learnings, accounts, and narratives of what happened on and after July 7th are all completely separate. Some of the reports even contradict each other. It is obvious that much of what the individual reports by different departments say would be greatly improved by cross-referencing with other published and unpublished reports and minutes - since the government, hospitals and emergency services respond in tandem to a serious crisis such as near-simultaneous multiple bombings, it makes no sense to have them all publish separate reports without sharing information with each other.

And anyone who wishes to understand more about what happened on July 7th, and about what is being done to prevent such horrors being repeated, and to see if improve the response to major disasters or acts of terrorism cn be improved , has to hunt about all over the place. It's not good enough; there should be one single extensive, accessible report, compiled by someone properly independent of the government, and the security services, and emergency services, who has the power to ask questions and demand answers and who can create something that is a fitting response to and record of the worst act of mass murder on British soil.

It's the public who were attacked, the public who were let down by the response and planning ( which is not to denigrate the heroism of the individuals of the emergency services on the day). It's the public who continue to run the risks of bombs and terror attacks, to have their civil liberties and long-cherished freedoms compromised or taken away, their holidays inconvenienced by threats, alerts and long delays, their houses invaded by armed police. The public who are told again and again that ''the rules of the game have changed'', so why is there STILL no single public document to answer their questions, to reassure and inform them about what happened on July 7th, why it happened, how it happened, what is being done to prevent it happening again, and what we will do if there is another 7/7 -type attack?

''A Home Office report to be published this week will list a catalogue of shortcomings and make a series of recommendations to ensure that Britain is better prepared in future.
While praising the emergency services for "huge bravery and professionalism" on the day, it will say that failures in communication, a lack of telephone help lines and the absence of a central reception point for walking wounded all compounded the distress.
After the bombs exploded — killing 56 people, including the four bombers — hundreds of injured victims made their own way home without medical help. Many are only now coming forward to complain of trauma symptoms. The report will recommend that plans are put in place for "reception centres", which would be set up close to the scene of any such future incidents to act as a rallying point.
Another key failing was the Metropolitan Police casualty bureau phone lines which could not cope with the volume of calls from worried families.
Some people spent days trying to find relatives, and were even turned away from intensive care units because they did not have adequate ID. The report will say: "We accept there was more we could have done in our preparations and in our response on the day and in the days and weeks that followed."
The findings are based on dozens of meetings conducted by Miss Jowell and John Reid, the Home Secretary, with relatives of the victims.
Miss Jowell said: "I think the anger that people feel is justified. People feel that after they have been an innocent victim of one of these atrocities they feel outraged by what has happened and I think that sometimes, for some people, insensitivity — unintended insensitivity — has made that worse.
"What is very clear to me is that if people feel they have not been properly helped within the first few hours, nothing is likely to change in their subsequent view. So getting the right help in place very quickly is absolutely critical to people's ability to adjust and adapt later."
She continued: "You have to be prepared to stand and take the anger and frustration of families and take their experience as a resolution to do better next time.
"We will apply the lessons learned from the tragedies these families have had to endure. But I don't think we'll ever get it completely right, and we have to show enough humility to continue to learn."

(c) Sunday Telegraph 17 September 2006

We'll see.


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