School tragedy families call for quicker investigations of child crash deaths

A lawyer for the families of two eight-year-old girls killed when a car ploughed into their school has called for cases involving child fatalities to be prioritised over other crash investigations.

In an open letter to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, solicitor Trevor Sterling said a lack of resources is slowing down police investigations into road deaths.

He is representing the families of Nuria Sajjad and Selena Lau, who were killed in the tragedy at The Study Prep School in Wimbledon, south London, in July last year, as well as 20 others who were also affected by the crash.

Selena Lau was one of two girls killed in the tragedy. (Family handout/Metropolitan Police/PA)
Selena Lau was one of two girls killed (Family handout/Metropolitan Police/PA)

The letter reads: “This incident had an impact on many families and the wider community; it was witnessed by many of the parents who, as well as experiencing ongoing physical pain, are living with ongoing psychological trauma.

“The incident itself has also generated much public and media interest.

“Regrettably, as we approach the anniversary of the tragic incident, there has still not been a decision over whether criminal charges will be brought.

“The driver was released under investigation, meaning that there is no clear timescale, and the delay is adding to the significant trauma suffered by those affected.”

The families want cases involving child fatalities to be prioritised, and greater resources given to these investigations.

Nuria Sajjad also died in the crash last summer.
Nuria Sajjad also died in the crash last summer (Family handout/Metropolitan Police/PA)

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley wrote to Mr Sterling earlier this month, detailing how investigators have spoken to 150 witnesses, analysed CCTV and forensically examined the car.

A decision over whether the driver will be charged is expected at the end of this month.

He said: “I recognise the investigation is not happening as quickly as the families would hope, and I apologise for the impact that this has had but I hope you will recognise why it is important that the investigation is comprehensive.”

Sir Mark said the force investigates around 100 fatal collisions per year, and that these are taken in turn.

“I fully understand your representations that child victims of road deaths should be prioritised and I recognise the devastating impact that the death of a child has on their family.

“Our current approach is that all fatal collision investigations are progressed in the order that they begin to ensure we are able to answer the questions the friends and family have as quickly as possible.

“Any decision to prioritise one case would result in another family waiting longer for answers.”

There is only one six-year, part-time course available to train forensic collision investigators which means there are very few people qualified to progress these police inquiries, Sir Mark wrote.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said prioritising certain cases would leave other families waiting longer for answers.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said prioritising certain cases would leave other families waiting longer for answers (James Manning/PA)

Mr Sterling said in a statement to the PA news agency: “There are a number of issues here, the lack of forensic examiners, the time it’s taking for them to prepare reports, the time it takes forensic examiners to be trained; all of this has a huge impact.

“Delay is the enemy of justice. These processes need to be expedited, especially in cases of public interest where children have died and this is what we want the mayor to hear from us on this.

“The reality is two young girls were killed and a number of others injured; the timeline of 18 months for the preparation of a forensic report is unacceptable.

“The delay is not just causing psychological impact, it also impacts the reality of a fair trial.

“We need to know if a charge is to be taken, and if not, why not.”