By Calum Fraser
More than 100,000 people have backed a mother’s appeal to open a new inquest into her 9-year-old daughter’s death.
Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, of Hither Green delivered a petition with huge public backing to the Attorney General’s (AG) office on Friday, August 31.
She hopes this will convince Geoffrey Cox QC to quash the previous coroner’s verdict that did not consider the possibility that air pollution may have caused her daughter’s death.
Ella Kissi-Debrah, who was scouted to play football for Millwall, had been hospitalised 27 times and coughed herself into coma on four previous occasions, before the fatal asthma attack on February 15, 2013.
If the Lewisham girl’s death is linked to air pollution it would be a ground breaking moment, setting a legal precedent.
Rosamund watched the petition pass 100,000 signatures on Sunday August 26 with her twin daughter and son.
She said: “It was a really strange, really overwhelming, feeling. Very humbling.
“We haven’t had many high moments over the past few years. It’s a depressing process. You know whatever happens, she is not coming back. But, this was special.”
When a petition has more than 100,000 signatures it can be considered for debate in parliament.
But, Rosamund and her legal team want to use the petition to put pressure on the AG instead.
She said: “The Attorney General acts independently of parliament. He is the only one who can decide to open a new inquest.”
For an inquest verdict to be quashed, fresh evidence must come to light that would make a new probe a matter of public interest. The AG can block the appeal if these two points are not proven.
Rosamund said: “This petition is vital. The AG cannot turn around and say I am not going to give a new inquest because there isn’t any public support.
“He may block it for other reasons, but he can’t say it is not in the public interest.”
Earlier this year, a report by Professor Stephen Holgate, of the Medical Research Council, found that it is “a real prospect that without unlawful levels of air pollution Ella would not have died.”
In the report Professor Holgate used data from pollution monitoring stations to note that pollution levels “along the South Circular (and in particular on the Catford roundabout) are well above the limit.”
Human rights lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn, who has represented Rosamund for the past four years, said: “This is clearly an issue of great concern to the public. The case for a further investigation is now overwhelming, and the new evidence about the impact of pollution on Ella’s health must be examined to see whether it was a causative factor of her death.
“There is a real need to understand what role air pollution played in Ella’s death – not least to learn lessons to ensure that other children do not suffer the same fate.”
A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said: “The attorney general expresses his sincere sympathies to Ella Kissi-Debrah’s family. I can confirm that an application for approval to apply for a fresh inquest has been received by the attorney general’s office regarding Ella’s case and we will review the evidence.
“In considering whether to grant his consent to an application, the attorney general must be satisfied that there is a reasonable prospect of the application succeeding in the High Court. Should the attorney general provide his authority, it will then be for the High Court to determine whether it is in the interests of justice for a new inquest to be held.”
To view the petition visit: www.change.org/p/grant-an-inquest-to-find-if-air-pollution-caused-my-daughter-s-death
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