London, 26 November 2020 – An Inquest will begin in London next week into the role that air pollution played in bringing about the death of a 9-year-old girl – the daughter of Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah
Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah lived 25-30m from the South Circular Road in Lewisham, south east London. She died on 15 February 2013 of a severe asthma attack following nearly 3 years of seizures and over 30 hospital admissions associated with her asthma.
A first Inquest, in 2014, ruled that Ella died of acute respiratory failure caused by severe asthma. This was quashed in 2019 and a new Inquest ordered after new evidence into the risks of air pollution was revealed in a 2018 report by leading expert Professor Sir Stephen Holgate.
The second Inquest, which will begin on 30 November, will consider levels of air pollution to which Ella was exposed (much of which relates to local traffic given the proximity of the South Circular and other busy roads) and investigate whether this was a causative factor in her death.
The Coroner has identified the following issues which he will hear evidence on (not in this order):
- Whether air pollution caused or contributed to Ella’s death.
- How air pollution levels were monitored at the time.
- The steps taken to reduce air pollution.
- The information that was provided to the public about the level of pollution, its dangers, and ways to reduce exposure.
The Coroner has identified the following Interested Persons (who will all be represented by counsel at the Inquest):
- Ella’s mother, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah
- London Borough of Lewisham
- Mayor of London
- Transport for London
- Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
- Department for Transport
- Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
The South Circular Road in London is categorised as a ‘red route’, a description allocated to roads that together make up over 30% of London traffic. The levels of pollution at monitoring stations along and near to the South Circular exceeded lawful levels of air pollutants during the period of Ella’s illness and call into question the role of the UK government authorities in maintaining air quality levels in the capital. The health risks associated with air pollution have been known for decades by the authorities and children like Ella are particularly vulnerable to the effects.
Should the Coroner rule that air pollution directly caused Ella’s death, it will be the first ruling of its kind, with Ella believed to be the first person in the UK (and possibly world) to have air pollution listed on her death certificate as cause of death.
The inquest will look at potential failings by the government authorities to take adequate steps to reduce pollution and provide public information about the risks of air pollution, as well as the extent to which any state failing contributed to Ella’s death.
Speaking ahead of the Inquest, Ella’s mother Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said:
“It’s coming up to eight years since Ella passed and it’s been a long hard fight to get this Inquest, with challenges along the way. What I want is justice for Ella and for her to have on her death certificate the true cause of why she died.”
Speaking about her daughter Rosamund said:
“So much has changed since Ella left us and we still miss her every day. It’s strange to think she would be sixteen now – it’s a completely different world without her and I do wonder, if she was here, what she’d be up to now, what her interests would be, what she’d make of the world.
“The house became so much quieter after her death and I don’t think we ever recovered from that. She was the life and soul of our home – always playing music, always dancing. She had a lot of influence on her younger siblings, always encouraging them to achieve, getting them into sports. They don’t have that big sister role model anymore; they only have each other. We especially miss her on anniversaries – like her birthday on 24 January – and big occasions, like Christmas.
“Life has changed and it will always be hard, but what will never change is how much we love Ella. She might not be here, but my love for her has never lessened and I will fight for her and for justice for her as long as I can, and in every way I can.”
Jocelyn Cockburn, Partner and Human Rights Solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, which represents Rosamund, said:
“It has been a privilege to work with Rosamund over the last four years in her search for answers as to why Ella died. It has been a significant achievement getting to this point – where there will be a fresh inquest to examine whether air pollution caused Ella’s death. Rosamund’s account of Ella’s struggle is very powerful and illustrates the human suffering behind the statistics. The inquest will examine the actions, or inaction of UK government authorities – both during Ella’s lifetime and today – in tackling air pollution and the coroner will consider if Ella’s death could have been avoided and if lessons need to be learned to avoid future deaths.”
An appendix follows this release outlining the witnesses to be called during the Inquest
Media interested in attending the Inquest should apply at https://www.innersouthlondoncoroner.org.uk/news/2020/nov/inquest-touching-the-death-of-ella-roberta-adoo-kissi-debrah
All media interested in receiving an information pack regarding chronology of events to date and timetable for the witnesses should email email@example.com
The Legal Team
The Family’s Solicitors – Hodge Jones & Allen
Jocelyn Cockburn, Partner in the Civil Liberties and Human Rights team
Guy Mitchell, Civil Liberties and Human Rights solicitor,
Megan Finnis, paralegal
The Family’s Counsel
Richard Hermer QC, Matrix Chambers, and
Adam Straw, Doughty Street Chambers, and
Ravi Mehta, Blackstone Chambers, of counsel.
For further information, please contact: