50,000 signatures reached
To: Rt Hon David Gauke, Lord Chancellor
Legal aid for inquests: Now or never!
Level the playing field at inquests and introduce automatic non-means tested legal aid funding for bereaved families following state related deaths.
Why is this important?
Whether it is the death of a child in a mental health setting, a prisoner who has taken their life, or a death as a result of neglectful state services, families need answers and assurances that everything is being done to stop similar deaths in the future.
There remains an unjust power imbalance between bereaved families who fight tooth and nail for funding for legal representation and state bodies who have automatic access to taxpayer’s money for expert legal teams.
To have any chance of funding, and at a time when they are grieving, families must jump through multiple hoops, answering extensive personal questions. Some are lucky to get legal aid, but many do not or face paying large sums towards legal costs. Some families are forced to represent themselves in complicated legal hearings while others resort to crowdfunding.
Without automatic access to non-means tested legal aid, bereaved families are denied their voice and any meaningful role. The absence of representation weakens investigations into state action, denying opportunities to interrogate the facts and ensure that mistakes or harmful practices are brought to light. Funded representation of the bereaved can safeguard lives, and is of vital interest to us all.
Every review and public inquiry that has examined the issue has repeated the urgent need for funding reform. However, in February 2019, the Ministry of Justice published its review into funding for inquests. Ignoring the overwhelming body of supporting evidence, the Government has concluded that families will not be granted automatic funding. This decision is a crushing betrayal of those families who invested in the review of legal aid, believing this process would once and for all bring about the meaningful change long campaigned for and supported now from every quarter.
We call on the government to address this injustice and introduce:
1. Automatic non-means tested legal aid funding to families for specialist legal representation immediately following a state-related death.
2. Funding equivalent to that enjoyed by state bodies/public authorities and corporate bodies represented.
In addition to individual signatories this INQUEST campaign is formally supported by: Liberty, Grenfell United, Mind, The Bar Council, Cruse Bereavement Care, Women in Prison, Legal Action Group, Legal Aid Practitioners Group, AvMA, Runnymede Trust, Criminal Justice Alliance, Operation Black Vote, ICVA, The National Autistic Society, Article 39 and INQUEST Lawyers Group.