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Tragic sailor's parents in row over 'unfair' inquest; Plea for lawyer is rejected in hearing on submarine blast.

The parents of a sailor killed when an oxygen generator exploded on board a nuclear submarine have accused the Government of denying them fair legal representation at his inquest.

Brian and Pauline McCann's son Paul was one of two submariners killed on HMS Tireless during a training exercise off Alaska in March 2007.

Mr and Mrs McCann's request for legal aid to fund their own lawyer at the inquest has been rejected by the Ministry of Justice, which has allowed funding for just one advocate to represent the families of both victims.

A Board of Inquiry into the deaths of Leading Mechanic Operator McCann, 32, from Halesowen, and Operator Mechanic Anthony Huntrod, 20, from Sunderland, heavily criticised the Navy and the Ministry of Defence over the deaths.

It blamed "systematic failings" within the organisations for the tragedy, and led Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth to issue an "unreserved" apology in the House of Commons.

It later emerged that nearly 1,000 of the type of generators that killed the pair had previously been stored as hazardous waste, but had been ordered back into service by Mo Dofficials. However, it was not possible to identify whether the generator that exploded was among those re-entered into service.

The inquest will begin next month in Sunderland. Royal Navy officers ranked as high as admiral and senior civil servants are expected to attend, while more than 100 witnesses are expected to be called. Mr McCannsaid: "I am disgusted that the Ministry of Justice is treating my family in this way.

"This will be a complex and lengthy inquest and we need Paul's interests to be represented properly. We have already spent pounds 5,000 on legal costs, we cannot afford anymore."

Mr McCann said he understood that funding for legal representation had been awarded to the Huntrod family and to MoD officials whose actions were criticised by the Board of Inquiry.

"We have been told they will finance one counsel for both families, but this is not good enough. There are different and complex issues and we feel we should have proper representation in our own right." he said.

"We don't want to use someone else's chosen lawyer, we want to choose our own legal representative to ask questions on our behalf and probe issues. The Huntrod family have chosen their lawyer and now we are being told we do not have the right to choose ours."

He said Mr Ainsworth - with whom the family have had many dealings - and the coroner had both expressed their desire for them to have their own lawyer.

Mr McCann, 66, and his wife, 62, said the Navy and the MoD had been very supportive and praised both for their "transparency and honesty" in the ensuing investigation.

He added: "Our son died serving his country and I believe his country is denying us fair representation. I am just an ordinary father seeking justice."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "We realise this must be a very difficult and painful time for Mr McCann and his family. However, he has not been denied representation. Legal Aid funding has been provided for representation at the HMS Tireless inquests. Mr Mc-Cann has argued that he requires separate legal representation, but has demonstrated no serious conflict of legal interest to justify this."


Paul McCann
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 29, 2009
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