£11k needed for hearing into South Circular air pollution death after legal aid refusal

Ella Kissi-Debrah
Ella Kissi-Debrah died aged nine in 2013. She lived close to the South Circular between Hither Green and Catford

Hither Green mother and clean air campaigner Rosamund Kissi-Debrah is one step closer to a new inquest into her daughter’s death – but needs to raise £11,000 in four weeks to apply to the High Court.

Ella Kissi-Debrah died in February 2013 from acute respiratory failure after years of coughing fits and seizures, and 27 visits to hospital.

Her family was this month given permission by the attorney general to apply for a fresh inquest into her death, after their lawyers said the original held in 2014 did not investigate the potential impact of air pollution.

But they now have until 18 February to find the £25k needed to cover legal costs, and have been turned down by legal aid.

South Circular Road
The South Circular Road through Catford and Hither Green is notorious for heavy traffic (and collisions)

A Crowdjustice appeal is already close to raising £14,000, but there is still work to do to raise the further £11,000 needed before the deadline, Ms Adoo Kissi Debra explained.

“The barristers in good faith have continued to work because they believe in it,” she said.

Ella’s story has made national headlines and grabbed the attention of politicians including health secretary Matt Hancock, who recently said he hoped her death would push more people to support clean air initiatives.

The cause of her asthma was never established, but new research into Ella’s death shows her frequent hospital admissions coincided with spikes in illegal levels of air pollution around her home, 25 metres from the busy South Circular Road.

The report, obtained in April 2018, said air pollution levels at the Catford monitoring station one mile from Ella’s home “consistently” exceeded EU limits over the three years leading to up her death.

After the fresh evidence emerged, more than 170,000 people signed a petition set up by Rosamund, calling for a fresh inquest.

Verdant Lane, Catford
Pollution remains a serious issue in the streets around where Ella lived

Now Rosamund and her legal team are preparing for their date in court, she said.

“The next stage is the High Court. Normally the judge doesn’t go against the attorney general but it is not a done deal.”

Still, the news was “huge”, she said. “My heart is racing now just speaking to you about it.”

To support Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, visit crowdjustice.com/case/airpollution.

Rosamund Kissi-Debrah is also holding a coffee morning in her daughter’s memory to mark what would have been Ella’s 15th birthday. It will be held at Torridon Road Library, Catford, from 9.30am to 11.30am on Thursday 24 January.


LDRS logoBridie Witton is the Local Democracy Reporter for Lewisham. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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