The family of a child whose death was linked to air pollution have been given permission by the attorney general to apply for a new inquest.
Ella Kissi-Debrah was nine years old when she died in February 2013 after three years of seizures and 27 visits to hospital for asthma attacks.
An inquest in 2014 concluded her death was due to acute respiratory failure caused by a severe asthma attack.
But lawyers for Ella’s family have said this ignored the potential impact of air pollution.
She lived just 25 metres from the busy South Circular Road in Lewisham, southeast London.
A report by Professor Stephen Holgate, a leading expert in asthma and air pollution, said pollution levels at a monitoring station one mile from Ella’s home consistently exceeded EU limits over the three months before her death.
It was likely unlawful levels of air pollution contributed to the asthma attack that killed Ella, the report said.
Quoted in a submission to the attorney general, the report said there was a real prospect that without unlawful levels of air pollution Ella would not have died.
Ella’s mother Rosamund Kissi-Debrah set up an online petition calling for a new inquest and it gained more than 170,000 signatures.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC said: I have received several representations about Ella’s case, and acknowledge the wider interest that has been taken in it.
However, I must assess the application based only on the facts of the case, and on whether there is enough new evidence available to merit reopening the inquest process.
I have concluded that there is new evidence which may alter the substantial truth of Ella’s death.
I am therefore able to give my permission for an application to the High Court to request a new inquest, based on the evidential test being met.
The decision is now in the hands of a high court judge but if the judge agrees with Ella’s family, she could become the first person in the UK officially listed as having died as a result of air pollution.
Ms Kissi-Debrah said: Words cannot express how happy I am that the attorney general has taken this decision and I would like to thank him for reaching his conclusion.
Nothing will bring my beautiful, bright, bubbly child back, but now at least I may get answers about how she died and whether it was air pollution which snatched her away from us.
Now I hope a new inquest will make those in power realise that our children are dying as a result of the air that they breathe.
She called on the government to take air pollution more seriously, adding: What do we need to do to make them prioritise our children’s lives over convenience and the rights of people to pollute?