Manchester

Manchester Arena attack families distressed at inquests delay

Manchester bombing victims Image copyright Various
Image caption The coroner said the inquests may take the form of a public inquiry, similar to the Hillsborough and Grenfell

The families of Manchester bombing victims are "distressed" by ongoing delays to the inquests into their deaths, a coroner has said.

More than a year after the Manchester Arena attack inquests are still on hold as the police investigation continues.

Coroner Fiona Borrill has further adjourned proceedings until October.

At a hearing in Manchester, she said the chief coroner has decided a retired judge should deal with the inquests but one has not yet been appointed.

The law will have to be changed so the judge would be able to see "sensitive material", Manchester Coroner's Court heard.

No relatives of the victims were at the 20-minute hearing but Elkan Abrahamson, a solicitor representing the family of the youngest victim, eight-year-old Saffie Roussos, said his clients and the families of other victims "will be distressed by the delay".

Detectives have named the bomber's brother, Hashem Abedi, as a suspect and have being trying to have him extradited from Libya to face charges in the UK.

Mr Abrahamson observed that the extradition attempts had been on-going for six months and added: "One does not want to say too much about the prospect of a successful extradition, the news reports indicate there are problems."

Ms Borrill, the acting senior coroner for Manchester, said: "When the judge is appointed the position will be reviewed and if it appears extradition is not likely to happen in the foreseeable future then clearly the judge will be minded to start the inquest process.

"Regrettably, and it is a matter of the utmost regret, a judge has not been appointed.

"I fully understand the distress caused to the families by the delay in hearing the inquests."

She said the retired judge will be nominated by autumn of this year.

'No sense of urgency'

Ms Borrill said the inquests may take the form of a public inquiry, similar to Hillsborough and Grenfell.

Outside court, Mr Abrahamson added: "There is something wrong with a process which is supposed to put the families and victims front and centre.

"There may be sound legal reasons for some delay but there is no sense of urgency here even a year on.

"It seems inevitable that a High Court Judge will be appointed - this could have been done a year ago. Even the Grenfell Inquiry, for all its faults, has at least begun in less than a year."

Salman Abedi detonated a bomb at the end of an Ariane Grande concert on 22 May last year, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds more.

A memorial service attended by Prince William and Prime Minister Theresa May marking the first anniversary of the attack was held last month.

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