An inquest is to proceed into the death of Claire Roberts, a lawyer told a coroner’s court in Northern Ireland.

The nine-year-old, from Rochester Road in Belfast, died in the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1996 from hyponatraemia – which is caused by lack of sodium in the bloodstream.

She was at the centre of a public inquiry into the deaths of several children in hospitals.

The inquiry concluded that the tragedies were avoidable.

A lawyer told a preliminary hearing of the inquest in Belfast: “The police investigation is likely to take a very lengthy period of time because it is going to be an investigation looking at all aspects of Mr Justice O’Hara’s report.”

He added: “We consider the inquest could proceed in advance of the police completing their investigation.”

Coroner Joe McCrisken instructed legal counsel to draft a witness list and address the scope of the hearing.

Police can request the inquest to be adjourned if someone is charged with a serious criminal offence.

In January, Mr Justice O’Hara ascribed Claire’s death to negligent care, and said there was a cover-up.

A new inquest was ordered by Attorney General John Larkin QC following publication of the inquiry’s findings.

The inquest will sit again later this month.