Northern Ireland

Claire Roberts: Fresh inquest into hyponatraemia death

An inquiry found that Claire Roberts' death was avoidable Image copyright Family Pictures
Image caption An inquiry found that the death of Claire Roberts, and three other children, was avoidable

Northern Ireland's Attorney General has directed the coroner to open a fresh inquest into the death of one of the children at the centre of the hyponatraemia inquiry.

Claire Roberts died at the Royal Hospital for Sick children in 1996.

In January, an inquiry into the deaths of five children in Northern Ireland's hospitals found that four were avoidable.

Hyponatraemia occurs when there is a shortage of sodium in the bloodstream.

For 21 years Claire's parents Alan and Jennifer Roberts have protested that the truth about their nine-year-old daughter's death was concealed and that the findings of the inquest into her death were wrong.

Speaking to the BBC, Alan Roberts welcomed the move, which he said had been a long time coming.

"As Claire's parents we welcome the decisive and definitive action taken by the Attorney General," he said.

Image caption Alan and Jennifer Roberts with the letter from the attorney general

In a statement, Mr Roberts said between 2004 and 2006, false and misleading information had been supplied to the coroner.

"As a result (of that), the coronial system was undermined and we, as grieving parents, were failed and misled," he said.

Image caption Adam Strain, Raychel Ferguson, Claire Roberts and Conor Mitchell. Lucy Crawford's family chose not to release a photograph

"The day following the inquest, 5 May 2006, the Royal Belfast Hospital stated that there was "no criticism of the Trust's care of this patient".

"It is a matter of great concern that between 2004 and 2006 a concerted effort was made by the Belfast Trust to have Claire's case excluded from the ongoing public inquiry. "

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Media captionJennifer Roberts speaks about the death of her daughter, Claire

Mr Roberts said it was now up to the coroner for a second time to examine why his daughter died.

"The role of the coroner is to establish the correct cause of death, something we as parents have been denied for more than 21 years," said Mr Roberts.

"It will be for other agencies, in turn, to explore the efforts of medical professionals to conceal the truth about Claire's death.

"We, as parents, are more determined than ever that the truth shall prevail, those responsible made accountable and that justice is served."

Image caption The inquiry's report made 96 recommendations

This move by the Attorney General, John Larkin QC, to open a fresh inquest into Claire's death is highly significant.

In January, Mr Justice O'Hara, who chaired the public inquiry into hyponatraemia related deaths, concluded that the first inquest into Claire's death was wrong.

He also said there was a cover-up into her death which was not referred to the coroner immediately to, in his words, "avoid scrutiny."

According to the Roberts family they are more determined than ever that the truth prevails and that those responsible are made accountable and that justice is served.

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