UK

Alexander Litvinenko Poisoning: Public Inquiry Rejected By Government

12/07/2013 12:22 BST | Updated 11/09/2013 10:12 BST
Getty
LONDON - NOVEMBER 20: In this image made available on November 25, 2006, Alexander Litvinenko is pictured at the Intensive Care Unit of University College Hospital on November 20, 2006 in London, England. The 43-year-old former KGB spy who died on Thursday 23rd November, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin in the involvement of his death. Mr Litvinenko died following the presence of the radioactive polonium-210 in his body. Russia's foreign intelligence service has denied any involvement in the case. (Photo by Natasja Weitsz/Getty Images)

A public inquiry into the death of poisoned Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has been rejected by the government in a blow to his widow's quest for truth.

Coroner Sir Robert Owen told a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice that his request for a public inquiry, in place of an inquest, was turned down at 10.15am today.

Sir Robert previously ruled that vital secret evidence could not legally be considered as part of a normal inquest and asked the Government to hold an inquiry instead.

His call was backed by Mr Litvinenko's widow Marina, who was present at the hearing.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 while drinking tea at the Millennium Hotel in London's Grosvenor Square in 2006.

The family believe he was working for MI6 at the time and was killed on the orders of the Kremlin.

Ben Emmerson QC, representing Mrs Litvinenko, told the hearing that the Government had shown an "utter lack of professionalism" in the way it handled the request for a public inquiry.

"The repeated catalogue of broken promises is a sign of something gone awry," Mr Emmerson QC said.

Mr Emmerson told the hearing that the family wanted a judicial review into the decision not to hold a public inquiry on the grounds of "irrationality".

Sir Robert had determined that he could not hear evidence linked to the alleged involvement of the Russian government in public following an application by the Foreign Office to keep certain information under wraps.

He wrote to the Justice Secretary requesting that a public inquiry was held in place of the inquest.