Theresa May could move to ensure secret MI5 evidence is not released adding extra costs and delays to process
Ministers could still turn the 7 July inquests into a public inquiry to prevent secret MI5 evidence being released, a hearing was told today.
The coalition government said it would not launch a legal challenge to the coroner's ruling that she should investigate alleged police and security service failings.
But the home secretary, Theresa May, reserves the right to launch a public inquiry and halt the inquests, potentially adding extra cost and delay to the process, the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice heard.
Coroner Lady Justice Hallett ruled in May that the inquests should examine if security officials could have prevented the 2005 London bombings.
Families of the 52 innocent people killed in the attacks welcomed her decision.
They want to use the inquests to ask MI5 officials why they did not follow up plot ringleader Mohammad Sidique Khan after he was witnessed meeting known terror suspects 17 months before the atrocities.
But the security service argues this is unnecessary and impossible because doing so would require the disclosure of top secret intelligence files.
Jonathan Hall, counsel for the home secretary and MI5, today revealed that ministers have decided against launching a judicial review of the coroner's ruling.
He told her: "The decision is not to seek to challenge your decision on scope.
"And so far as public inquiries are concerned, the secretary of state does not propose to initiate a public inquiry, although that cannot be ruled out as a possibility."
One option for MI5 would be to hive off questions about whether the bombings were preventable into a separate inquiry, which could examine secret documents in private.
Section 17A of the Coroners Act 1988, as amended in 1999, gives the Lord Chancellor power to adjourn an inquest if the death is being investigated by a public inquiry.
This provision was controversially used in the case of Azelle Rodney, 24, who was shot dead by police in London in 2005, after his inquest stalled over the release of secret evidence.
Lady Justice Hallett extracted a pledge that any ministers who take a decision on turning the hearings into a public inquiry will have to read an assessment of the impact the move would have on the bereaved families and the work done by her inquest team.
She told Mr Hall: "I have already committed many thousands of pounds of public money and other resources on this task.
"I have made promises to families, to survivors, and indeed to the wider public. I am sure that those who instruct you will understand that I am anxious not to waste those resources or break those promises."
The inquests will begin on 11 October and are expected to last for about four to five months, counsel to the inquests Hugo Keith QC announced today.
They will begin with an opening statement, followed by details of the four suicide bombers' journey to London.
Evidence will then be called relating to the scenes of the four attacks, first Aldgate, followed by Edgware Road, King's Cross and Tavistock Square.
The hearings for each scene are expected to last two to three weeks, with the first three due to finish before Christmas and Tavistock Square covered in January.
The inquests will then cover the backgrounds of the bombers and general issues like forensics and the command of the emergency services.
They will finish by looking at the question of whether the attacks could have been prevented.
MI5 warned that the process of blanking out sensitive information in documents will be very lengthy.
Hall said it would take a team of six or seven security service officers five months to edit all the the secret papers held by MI5, West Yorkshire police and the Metropolitan police.
"It could take three months just to prepare all the documents so the coroner and her team can inspect them to consider whether they will be needed for the inquests," he added.
Another pre-inquest hearing will be held on 4 October.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017