Legal aid

Unfortunately, there is no automatic public funding for a family’s legal costs at an inquest. However, public funding, or ‘legal aid’, might be available depending on your financial circumstances and the particular nature of your loved one’s death. 

You might be eligible for legal aid if:

- You fall within the financial threshold set by the Legal Aid Agency.

- and the inquest falls into certain categories. This will usually be:

  • Cases which engage Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the ‘right to life’). Article 2 will often apply to deaths which took place whilst the deceased was in the care or custody of the state, such as

    • - whilst in prison;

    • - whilst in police custody or following police contact;

    • - whilst detained under the Mental Health Act 1983; or

    • - whilst subject to an order depriving them of their liberty. 

  • Cases which the coroner decides arguably engage Article 2; and 

  • A very rare category of cases which are considered to engage issues in the ‘wider public interest’, such as disasters.

However, it is important to understand that Article 2 depends on the particular circumstances and will not always apply in the categories above, for example, it may be more difficult to get funding if your loved one died from ‘natural causes’. If you are not sure whether your loved one’s inquest will fall within this category, speak to your INQUEST caseworker.

Even if you fall above the financial threshold set by the Legal Aid Agency, you may still be eligible for legal aid if the inquest engages Article 2. However, you may also be required to make some contributions towards the cost. 

You should speak to your INQUEST caseworker if you are not sure whether you will be eligible for legal aid. 

You should be aware that applying for funding is complex, and the forms you will need to fill in are very detailed and can be intrusive and stressful. Often each family member will need to provide the Legal Aid Agency with very detailed information about their financial affairs. Your solicitor should be able to guide you through the process and respond to any queries you may have. In some cases coroners may be willing to write a letter in support of a funding application. This will assist with the funding application, but does not necessarily mean that funding will be granted.

If you are not eligible for legal aid, depending on your circumstances, it might be possible to fund your legal representation in other ways: 

‘Conditional Fee Agreements’ (also called ‘no win, no fee’) 

This might be possible if you are also pursuing a civil claim (such as a clinical negligence claim) on your loved one’s behalf. The inquest costs would then be covered by a successful civil claim (but you would not be asked to pay if your civil claim was unsuccessful). Your lawyer should explain your legal costs and funding options very carefully to you. If you are in any doubt, make sure to get a second opinion or speak to your INQUEST caseworker. 

Legal Expenses Insurance 

Your home and motor insurance or trade union membership may cover the cost of inquest proceedings, however this is very rare. You would also need to check your policy very carefully to find out exactly what type of representation it might cover. If your loved one was a member of a trade union, the union may provide you with free legal representation at the inquest and help you in any claim for compensation. 

‘Pro bono’ help

Sometimes it’s possible for us to find a lawyer who might be able to represent you for free. Your INQUEST caseworker will be able to tell you whether this might be possible. 

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding using platforms such as CrowdJustice can sometimes be successful when traditional forms of funding representation aren’t possible, such as where you would like to re-open an inquest but aren’t eligible for legal aid. 

Paying yourself 

It is important to know that inquests can cost thousands of pounds, so you must think very carefully before deciding to pay privately. We would advise you to speak to your INQUEST caseworker first.