Northern Ireland

Public inquiry into children's deaths is adjourned again

Conor Mitchell was 15 when he died
Image caption Conor Mitchell was 15 when he died

The public inquiry into the deaths of five children in hospitals in Northern Ireland has been adjourned for the second time in just over a week.

The inquiry into hyponatraemia-related deaths re-opened on 20 February, eight years after it was first set up.

It was adjourned after an expert produced evidence questioning if one of the children, Adam Strain, had died from hyponatraemia.

Some of the families are said to be angry at this latest setback.

After meeting in England to discuss the new evidence, the legal teams have decided they still need more time.

The inquiry is scheduled to begin again on Monday, 26 March.

The inquiry into hyponatraemia-related deaths was established in 2004 and was primarily set up to investigate the deaths of Adam Strain, Claire Roberts and Raychel Ferguson.

The remit of the inquiry was later broadened to investigate events following the death of Lucy Crawford and also issues arising from the treatment of Conor Mitchell.

The common link is whether the children were administered the wrong amounts of fluid which eventually led to their deaths.

The inquiry was suspended in 2005 to allow the PSNI to undertake investigations related to the three cases which it was initially examining.

In 2008, the police indicated that their investigations were complete and the Public Prosecution Service directed that there would be no prosecutions.

As a result, the inquiry announced the resumption of its work at a progress hearing on 30 May 2008.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the inquiry said: "The inquiry appreciates changes to the schedule are frustrating for the families of the children whose cases it is investigating and for other interested parties.

"The revisions to the schedule have been made to enable the inquiry's expert witnesses to have sufficient time to consider the contents of a report by a consultant paediatric neurologist, Professor Fenella Kirkham. This report was submitted to the inquiry on 15 February 2012.

"A meeting of the experts took place on Wednesday 22 February, at which the report of Professor Kirkham was discussed. That meeting will reconvene and conclude on Friday 9 March."

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