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A public inquiry: Fieldfisher’s Smith serves as lead counsel as Litvinenko inquiry starts

A public inquiry into the London death of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has opened at the High Court this morning (27 January), with Fieldfisher partner Martin Smith serving as lead solicitor.

Litvinenko, a former secret agent and political dissident, died from radioactive polonium poisoning in November 2006 after meeting two Russian men at a Mayfair hotel. On his deathbed, Litvinenko named the Kremlin as responsible for his condition.

The inquiry was formally set up in July last year, just weeks after Home Secretary Theresa May announced the government would investigate the death of Litvinenko in 2006. It followed the High Court battle in January 2014 when Litvinenko’s widow, Maria, challenged the Home Office over its refusal to order the setting up of a statutory inquiry. Presided by Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justice Treacey, the court held the reasons given by the state did not provide a rational basis for the decision not to set up an inquiry.

Fieldfisher’s Smith, who leads the firm’s inquiries, inquests and investigations team, is experienced in dealing with such heavyweight instructions having previously advised Lords Hutton and Morris on their public inquiries as well as Sir William Gage in relation to the Baha Mousa Public Inquiry. He further acted as solicitor to the inquests into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed and inquests into the London Bombings of July 2005.

Today’s judge-led inquiry is led by Sir Robert Owen, one of the UK’s most senior judges and the original coroner in the case, while counsel to the inquiry includes Temple Garden Chambers’ duo Robin Tam QC and Andrew O’Connor, and Three Raymond Buildings’ Hugh Davies QC.

Also in attendance today is Litvinenko’s widow, Maria and her son Anatoly, whose legal representation is Matrix Chambers’ Ben Emmerson QC and for the Atomic Weapons Establishment (which will give evidence on characteristics of polonium-210) is One Crown Office Row’s David Evans QC.