Raychel Ferguson family call on coroner to withdraw from inquest proceedings

The family of Raychel Ferguson has called on the coroner presiding over a new inquest into the death of the nine-year-old to stand down and withdraw from the process.

The Ferguson family believe remarks made by coroner Joe McCrisken indicate a "bias" against the family.

They had come to Bishop Street Courthouse in Londonderry hoping that their 22-year campaign for the full truth of the death of their daughter was nearing an end.

On Thursday, however, the family told UTV that its faith in the inquest had been undermined.

They pointed to the remarks made on Wednesday by the Coroner Joe McCrisken.

He said: “The Fergusons and everyone else sat through a multi-million pound inquiry. What else do you think needs to be discovered that was not discovered at the public inquiry?”

That statement is believed to have greatly upset the Ferguson family and at Thursdays hearing their counsel John Coyle began an application that called on Joe McCrisken to recuse himself - in other words withdraw from presiding over this inquest.

Mr Coyle said the application was based on "bias and animus" towards the Ferguson family.

He said the Fergusons had been left “utterly disquieted” by the coroner’s remarks.

However, Mr McCrisken did not allow Mr Coyle to proceed and instead invited other parties at the inquest to make written submissions on the matter, and indicated that he would make a ruling next week.

For now, the inquest timetable continues, but as one lawyer told today’s hearing, if the coroner were to recuse himself it would effectively bring this inquest to a stop.

Raychel died at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in June 2001. She died a day after undergoing an appendix operation at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.

She was one of five children whose hospital treatment was examined in the long-running Hyponatraemia Inquiry. Her death resulted from hyponatraemia brought on by fluid therapy which had not properly replaced her sodium levels. Inquiry chairman Mr Justice O'Hara found in 2018 that Raychel's death, and the deaths of Adam Strain and Claire Roberts, were the result of "negligent care". Following the inquiry, then-attorney general for Northern Ireland John Larkin directed that a new inquest be held.

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