Lawyers for Southern Cross Austereo have appeared before a London coroners court in the inquest into the death of Jacintha Saldanha.
The King Edward VII hospital has disputed claims by SCA that the station called the hospital back several times to inform the nurses that the prank call would be broadcast. Even though SCA is an Australian company, with no jurisdiction in a UK court, the company was granted ‘interested observer’ status to give SCA lawyers a chance to address the court.
The court was closed for some time on the first day of the hearing to discuss ‘a sensitive issue.’
After Jacintha Saldanha transferred the call, a second nurse gave details of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge’s medical condition to the two presenters, who pretended to be the Queen and Prince Charles.
The second nurse has not been publicly identified, and the hospital’s lawyers have applied for her identity to continue to be kept out of the media spotlight.
One of the central issues emerging in the case is the hospital’s telephone policy, raising the question of why a nurse was answering the phone instead of a trained telephone receptionist. The call came in at about 5.30am London time. More in The Guardian’s report here.
The family’s lawyer, John Cooper QC told the hearing: “We would like to examine why it was that Mrs Saldanha was placed in a position in the matron’s office where she was receiving calls from outside agencies and whether there was a security policy in place to inform those due to carry out those policies. Was it within her contract of employment and capabilities to be a receptionist?”
Proceedings will resume in May to give time for SCA lawyers to prepare their response.