Schoolgirl Ella Kissi-Debrah, who lived 25 metres from the South Circular Road in Lewisham, one of the busiest roads in the capital, died in 2013 after three years of repeated hospital visits.
She was first taken to hospital in 2010 after having a coughing fit and was subsequently admitted 27 times before her death.
A 2014 inquest found that she died from “acute respiratory failure,” but in May of this year the High Court granted a new inquest after her mum, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, presented new evidence to the courts.
At a pre-inquest review, deputy coroner Philip Barlow said the original inquest finding was quashed “partly on the basis of the testimony of Professor Stephen Holgate which suggested that unlawful levels of air pollution contributed to Ella’s death”.
Ella’s family’s lawyers argued that the new evidence showed there was an “arguable failure” by the state in the execution of its duties under the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects right to life.
Ella’s family will argue during the upcoming inquest that had the family known how dangerous the levels of pollution were, her daughter’s death could have been prevented.
Mr Barlow gave a “preliminary indication” that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights “is engaged in this case”.
He said: “The state has an obligation to protect life. If there’s a breach of that obligation, then that triggers a supplementary obligation to the state to put in hand an investigation.
“The obligation to protect life is under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act.
“In this case there’s at least an arguable breach of both domestic and EU law in that the pollution levels at the time of Ella’s death consistently exceeded the statutory levels and that conclusion is supported by the Supreme Court findings.”
Speaking after the hearing on Tuesday, Ms Kissi-Debrah said she was happy it was over as it was “incredibly stressful” for the family.
She said: “I’m relieved it’s over for today because it’s been incredibly stressful for my family.
“I believe this affects the wider public. We know more about air pollution and the impact on health and hope it will save future lives.
“It’s not going to bring my daughter back but we hope it will save future lives.”
Ella may become the first person in the UK with a cause of death listed as air pollution.
Representatives for the Mayor of London, Transport for London, University Hospital Lewisham and London Ambulance Service (LAS) attended the hearing today.
It was decided that LAS and University Hospital Lewisham would not need to give evidence in the new inquest as their original testimony was accepted.
Another pre-inquest review was set for April 8 at Southwark Coroner’s Court.
The inquest, which could take place in either November or December next year, is likely to last two weeks.
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