26th June 2013

INQUEST has raised serious concerns to MPs over the impact on bereaved people of the government’s proposals to limit legal aid, ahead of a parliamentary debate on the proposals tomorrow. The debate may be the only opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny because the government aims to bring in the changes by way of secondary legislation.

Informed by our casework, INQUEST’s briefing published today argues that a number of the proposals in the consultation would impact adversely on bereaved families. These include plans to: remove client choice; remove legal aid for prison law matters; introduce a ‘residence’ test; and, remove funding for some judicial review claims and test cases.

The families and types of cases which would be affected include those of: Jean Charles de Menezes – a Brazilian national shot dead by armed police at Stockwell Tube station after being mistaken for suicide bomber in London on 22 July 2005; and Jimmy Mubenga - an Angolan national who died on 12th October 2010 following restraint on a British Airways aeroplane whilst being forcibly removed from the UK by G4S security officers.

Further, the proposals overlook the importance of specialist legal representation for families and do not address the far greater – and increasing – costs to the taxpayer of funding the legal advice and representation automatically given to government and state agencies following a contentious death.

Helen Shaw, co-director of INQUEST said:

“Over 30 years INQUEST has worked with thousands of bereaved people. Access to specialist legal representation that is publicly funded has been crucial in securing accountability and justice following contentious deaths in custody or involving state agents.

“Chris Grayling has said that he wants to deliver a legal aid system which commands the confidence of taxpayers and which spends their money wisely. We fail to see how his Department’s current proposals meet this aim. We hope Members of Parliament will seek assurances from the Ministry of Justice that the proposals in the consultation paper which impact adversely on bereaved families will be dropped.”

For further information, please contact Hannah Ward, INQUEST Communications Manager and Anna Edmundson, INQUEST Research and Policy Officer on 020 7263 1111.


Notes to editors:

1.The briefing is available for download here

  1. The debate in the House of Commons on Thursday 27 June has been secured by David Lammy MP and Sarah Teather MP
  2. INQUEST provides a general telephone advice, support and information service to any bereaved person facing an inquest and a free, in-depth complex casework service on deaths in custody/state detention or involving state agents and works on other cases that also engage article 2 of the ECHR and/or raise wider issues of state and corporate accountability. INQUEST’s policy and parliamentary work is informed by its casework and we work to ensure that the collective experiences of bereaved people underpin that work. Its overall aim is to secure an investigative process that treats bereaved families with dignity and respect; ensures accountability and disseminates the lessons learned from the investigation process in order to prevent further deaths occurring.

Please refer to INQUEST the organisation in all capital letters in order to distinguish it from the legal hearing.