Police shut down mobile phone network after London 7/7 bombings, inquest hears
POLICE shut down a major mobile phone network to the public in part of London after the 7/7 attacks, an inquest heard.
A senior officer from City of London Police invoked powers to restrict use of the O2 network around Aldgate Tube station to members of the emergency services with special handsets.
The coroner, Lady Justice Hallett, remarked she had problems using her mobile phone after the July 7, 2005 bombings in London.
A total of 52 people were killed in the blasts, including Adrian Johnson, 37, of Sutton-in-Ashfield, a married father of two and product technical manager for Burberry.
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Ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, whose family lived in Beeston at the time, killed six people in the bombing at Edgware Road on the Circle line.
Hugo Keith QC, counsel to the inquests, said a member of the City of London Police authorised that the 02 network around the City of London be disabled.
This was in accordance with a protocol which permits senior police officers to ask for networks to be restricted to people who have special SIM cards, who can continue to use the network.
The inquest heard this was to prevent the whole system overloading and crashing all the calls.
Mr Keith added: "That decision was limited to the 02 network and limited to the City of London Aldgate area.
"I don't think we have any other evidence in relation to other networks being disabled in the same way."
The decision was taken by a City of London Police superintendent at 11.40am under the Access Overload Control (ACCOLC) system, the hearing was told.
Mr Keith said there were problems with other mobile networks in the capital on July 7 but this was because they were overloaded as millions of people called friends and relatives to check they were safe. He said: "What I think occurred in relation to the other networks – not O2 – was that they can space calls out.
"So if you attempt to make a call, if there's overloading in the system, your first or second attempt may not succeed but you may get through eventually.
"And they stagger the calls to prevent the system overloading. There is a limit on how many calls and how much data can be carried on the system at any one time.
"That is different to the ACCLOC decision."
The London Assembly's 2006 report into the July 7 attacks criticised the decision to shut down the O2 network around Aldgate.
Senior police commanders had decided this should not happen because of the risk of public panic and fears that not all emergency personnel had ACCLOC-enabled phones.