By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
An inquest into the deaths of seven people killed in the Croydon tram crash has been postponed due to coronavirus restrictions.
It was due to start this coming Monday at Croydon Town Hall – nearly four years on from the tragic derailment at Sandilands Junction.
The jury inquest into the deaths of Dane Chinnery, Donald Collett, Robert Huxley, Philip Logan, Dorota Rynkiewicz, Philip Seary and Mark Smith was originally opened on November 21, 2016 but was adjourned until a decision over whether or not to charge the driver was made.
London will go into tier 2, a level of high alert tomorrow as Covid-19 cases continue to rise.
For this reason, the inquest has been adjourned.
The higher alert level forbids socialising indoors and, due to this, social distancing at the town hall has been increased to two metres.
This means that the council chamber will not be able to accommodate 11 jurors, alongside court staff and solicitors.
In a written announcement of the postponement, senior coroner Sarah Ormrod-Walshe said: “I am very concerned about the jury. I do not think it is reasonable, given the increase in the tier level for London and the infection rate in Croydon, to oblige a juror to spend the next few weeks in a room with 10 strangers.
“For the time being, therefore, the start of the Sandilands inquests has been delayed by Covid-19. However, my team and I will continue as far as possible to take proactive steps, with a view to resuming, if at all possible, as soon as possible.”
She said if it were possible to resume the inquest in four weeks’ time it could still be completed by Christmas.
Croydon council is set to carry out a risk assessment in two weeks’ time.
Ben Posford, partner and head of catastrophic injury at London law firm Osbornes Law, is lead solicitor for five of the seven families.
He said: “The families are very disappointed by the adjournment, having been preparing for the start of the inquests for a long time.
“However, they accept the difficult decision that the senior coroner has had to make in light of the Covid crisis, and hope that the inquests can get under way soon.”
Pictured top: The aftermath of the Croydon tram crash in 2016
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