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Judge who chaired hyponatraemia inquiry to meet with coroners over inquest concerns

The inquiry report was published in January, 14 years after it was first ordered
Seanín Graham

THE High Court judge who headed up the inquiry intohyponatraemia-related deaths is to meet with coroners in Northern Ireland to address "worrying concerns" around inquest referrals.

Mr Justice O'Hara confirmed that that he has agreed with the presiding coroner, Mrs Justice Keegan, that the most "effective way" to deal with concerns that emerged during the 14-year inquiry was to "speak directly" with her three colleagues - coroners Paddy McGurgan, Suzanne Anderson and Joe McCrisken.

In a statement released on the inquiry website, the team confirmed:

"Mr Justice O'Hara will address the coroners collectively at a meeting on 17th May 2018. He will speak on issues including how deaths are referred to coroners and how inquests are conducted."

The inquiry into the hospital deaths of five children was published on January 31 and found that four of the deaths were avoidable.

Mr O'Hara severely criticised doctors and administrators, some of whom "deliberately misled" parents to avoid scrutiny of their failings.

He also raised concerns about the failure of some doctors to refer deaths to the coroner.

A fresh inquest was ordered last week into the death of nine-year-old Claire Roberts, who died in 1996 at the Royal Belfast hospital for Sick Children. The inquiry concluded there had been a "cover up" around her care failings.

Mr Justice O'Hara said the failure of two doctors to refer the schoolgirl's death to the coroner was "even by the standards of 1996...a gross error of judgment".

"Their reasons were hopelessly inadequate, their decision reached without proper reflection and their evidence unconvincing".

The other children who died were Adam Strain, Raychel Ferguson, Conor Mitchell and Lucy Crawford.

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