The Government has launched a call for evidence on changes to legal aid funding for families at inquests – a recommendation that has been supported by previous reviews.
At an inquest, a family might not be able to get legal aid (only available for certain inquests and subject to a means/merits test) or afford the cost of legal representation themselves. However, they might find that others involved in the inquest are represented by a lawyer. Public bodies, such as the police or NHS organisations, will have their legal costs paid for by the state.
In March 2018, families told Parliament why bereaved relatives need legal aid at inquests. They were questioned by MPs of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. They spoke about finding the inquest an adversarial process where they, as a victim, had an inequality of arms. They faced numerous state bodies who all had publicly funded legal teams, yet they were unable to access legal support.
The charity INQUEST has called for non-means tested public funding for bereaved families at inquests following state-related deaths. This recommendation has been supported by the previous and current Chief Coroner and in two recent reviews by Dame Elish Angiolini and Bishop James Jones published in 2017. It has also been supported by the Bach Commission and the Harris review into Self Inflicted Deaths in Custody.
So, what is being done?
The Government has launched a call for evidence on possible changes to legal aid funding for bereaved families at inquests.
The call for evidence will close on 31 August 2018 and anyone involved in the inquest process can take part. To have your say, you can complete the survey
Any changes that are proposed as a result of this exercise, will be presented in a public consultation and members of the public will be invited to respond.