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Friday, 8 October, 1999, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Single inquiry 'simpler and quicker'
The wreck of the Marchioness is raised from the Thames in 1989
After the London rail crash, everyone wants answers.

What went wrong? Was anyone criminally liable? How could it have been prevented?

London Train Crash
The police, the Health and Safety Executive, two public inquiries, inquests on the victims' deaths: it is a long and complicated process.

Many people have expressed frustration that the inquiry into the Southall crash is now under way two years after the event.

The delay in that case was caused partly by the mounting of prosecutions. Because they involve criminal charges, they take priority over other legal proceedings, which necessarily have to wait for a conclusion before they can go ahead.

Now however, a team of lawyers is calling for the whole system to be streamlined.

The Piper Alpha oilrig is engulfed by fire in 1988
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers is calling for a unified inquiry process to be set up, to cope with events such as the Piper Alpha fire, the Lockerbie bomb, the Hillsborough deaths and the Zeebrugge sinking.

Patrick Allen, a lawyer for victims of the Marchioness sinking and the King's Cross fire and a member of APIL, said a consistent approach to tragedies was "long overdue".

"It's time we put an end to a system in which several different inquiries or procedures are conducted at the same time, duplicating effort and resources and increasing distress to survivors and the bereaved," he said.

They are proposing a full-time Accident and Disaster Investigation Bureau to be set up which could introduce interim safety measures even if people were being prosecuted.

The proposals would mean that an inquest became part of the inquiry, and that any findins could be used in civil claims for damages.

"The public inquiries should always be held before a judge who would have the power to award damages, make recommendations, and deal with the formal procedures required by an inquest," said a spokeswoman.

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