By Calum Fraser
More than 60,000 people have demanded a fresh inquest into the death of a 9-year-old – the first to be directly linked to air pollution.
Rosamund Kissi-Debrah launched a petition on Tuesday afternoon appealing to the attorney general to reopen the inquest into her daughter’s death.
The first inquest found that Ella Kissi-Debrah, who lived around 25 feet from the South Circular in Hither Green and was scouted by Millwall, died of a severe asthma attack in 2013.
Rosamund hopes evidence provided by a top government scientist, which directly links Ella’s death to air pollution levels, will persuade the attorney general to quash the previous decision and reopen the case.
The petition received more than 50,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
Talking of the moment she saw how many people supported her, Rosamund said: “I actually burst out crying. I was stunned, shocked. I thought maybe there would be 1000 or a bit more, but not this.
“I didn’t realise this many people knew and cared about Ella outside of Lewisham. We’ve had messages of support from all over.
“Fingers crossed the attorney general makes the right decision. It all rests on him.”
If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures it will have to be debated in parliament.
Lewisham girl Ella had been hospitalised 27 times and coughed herself into coma on four previous occasions, before the fatal asthma attack on February 15, 2013.
A report by Professor 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 Catford roundabout) are well above the limit.”
Rosamund, who still lives in Hither Green with her son and daughter, said: “We will be devastated if the attorney general comes back and says no.
“A new inquest could be the legacy that Ella deserves.”
If Ella’s death is linked to air pollution by a second inquest, it could set a legal precedent.
For an inquest verdict to be quashed, fresh evidence must come to light that would make a new inquest a matter of public interest.
Human rights lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn, who has represented Rosamund for the past four years, said: “This is clearly an issue that has struck a chord with the public. Pollution affects each and every one of us, and the most vulnerable among us, particularly children, are most harmed.
“Ella’s family set up the petition to call for a fresh inquest into Ella’s death because they recognise the wider concern – that this is not just about the tragic circumstances of Ella’s death but also about learning lessons to prevent unnecessary deaths of other children.
“The government knows that it is in breach of the law over air pollution and it is only public pressure that will cause them to take decisive action to clean up our air.”
We contacted the department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs for a comment but they directed us to the attorney general’s office.
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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