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Anatomy of a Terrorist Attack: What the Coroner’s Inquests Revealed about the London Bombings

Without a dedicated Minister for the Emergency Services, the forthcoming recommendations from the Coroner's Inquests into 7 July 2005 London bombings are unlikely be implemented in full, claims a new report from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

The RUSI paper, Anatomy of a Terrorist Attack: What the Coroner's Inquests Revealed about the London Bombings, acknowledges the 7/7 Inquests have pushed the boundaries on transparency, offered unprecedented insight - and unfamiliar public scrutiny - into the modus operandi of the Security Service (MI5), but warns of difficulty implementing the expected Coroner's recommendations on the emergency services when they are published.

Citing previous reports such as that which followed the Kings Cross fire in 1987, the RUSI paper warns the absence of Ministerial oversight for emergency services mean any of the recommendations on emergency response are 'likely to go the way of those from previous reviews: noted and filed until the next major incident occurs.'

One of the report authors, Jennifer Cole, Head of Emergency Management at RUSI argues:

'To ensure that the best effect is gained from the recommendations and from the Coroner's final report, emergency responders need policy and doctrinal discussion of what implementing such changes entails, backed up by the political will to take those discussions forward. Political understanding of the complexities of major incident response is critical to the future of the emergency services.

'Unlike the military, which has the Ministry of Defence to look at policy and doctrine across the three armed services, there is no equivalent organisation to which the emergency services can report collectively: where practitioners and civil servants sit side-by-side to identify end-user requirements, consider the implications of their implementation, analyse their introduction into theatre and make informed recommendations borne out of the deep understanding that can only come from insiders.

'Whilst within the Home Office, Department for Communities and Local Government and Department of Health, professionals from the police, fire and ambulance services respectively 'sit' with civil servant colleagues, there is no body enabling them to do so together at a higher level. There is no Minister for the Emergency Services, or Minister for Civil Contingencies, who can fight for increased budgets, ring-fence threatened resources or argue for increased funding once a real need has been identified. This, as much as the financial constraints themselves, is why recommendations made in the wake of major incidents remain so difficult to implement.

'Political oversight would not only also help to develop and inform the strategic understanding of international emergency services policy and procedure from around the world, it could also help to collect, disseminate, consider and act on lessons identified from overseas emergencies that might help to inform the future response to our own and, consequently, save money as well as lives in the long run. It could speed up those changes that are genuinely needed, cutting through the bureaucracy and fast-tracking the finances needed to make them happen, much as former Security Minister Lord West did for physical security following his review of the failed bomb attacks on London and Glasgow in July 2007.

'7 July 2005 was a tragedy, but the unprecedented level of scrutiny at the Coroner's Inquests can help ensure that the lives lost were not completely in vain. A recognition that change will only come with new political oversight, combined with a genuine desire to act on the Coroner's recommendations, would be an invaluable legacy.'

Released ahead of the Coroner's report (to be published on 6 May), RUSI's Anatomy of a Terrorist Attack is an analysis of evidence which emerged from the Inquests into the London Bombings of 7 July 2005, and addresses radicalisation, the role of MI5 and whether the attacks could have been prevented. The paper also argues the Inquests may influence future government policy, coming as they have ahead of a Green Paper on intelligence in judicial proceedings, due to be published later this year.

To read the report in full please visit:
http://www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/anatomyofterror.pdf

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  • 1. For all enquiries and interview bids, please contact Daniel Sherman danielsATrusi.org
  • 2. Anatomy of a Terrorist Attack: What the Coroner's Inquests Revealed about the London Bombings was compiled by Rachel Briggs, Jennifer Cole, Margaret Gilmore and Valentina Soria. A short biography on each of the authors is available to view at the beginning of the report, for more please visit:
    http://www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/anatomyofterror.pdf
  • 3. RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a unique institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters.

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