6 March 2018

Before Joint Committee on Human Rights
15:20pm, Committee Room 1, House of Commons  
Wednesday 7 March 2018 

On Wednesday (7 March) bereaved families, lawyers and representatives from the charity, INQUEST, will be questioned by MPs of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) for the Human Rights: attitudes to enforcement inquiry.

Deborah Coles, Executive Director of INQUEST, will be appearing alongside bereaved families who will speak about their experiences of the inquest process and the ‘inequality of arms’ they face in accessing legal support when state agencies are represented by teams of publicly funded expert legal teams.

In written evidence submitted to the JCHR, INQUEST has highlighted a ‘crisis in legal representation’. INQUEST is calling for automatic 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.



For further information, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected]

  • To find out more about the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry, visit the inquiry webpage here. The session will be available to watch live here

  • The Committee will be hearing from two families:
    • Connor Sparrowhawk’s mother, Sara Ryan and stepfather, Richard Huggins. Connor Sparrowhawk was 18 years old when he died on 4 July 2013. Connor had autism, a learning disability and epilepsy. In October 2015 an inquest jury concluded that Connor’s death was contributed to by neglect.  At the inquest, Connor’s family battled to get answers from various bodies and individuals involved in Connor’s care. Each of these were granted funding for legal representation and among them were, the mental health trust, two doctors and two other members of healthcare. 
    • Joseph Phuong’s sister, Louise Rowland and her husband, Simon Rowland. Joseph Phuong, a 32 year old man, died on 5 June 2015 following contact with the Metropolitan police and mental health services in West London. Of the seven interested parties represented at the inquest, Joseph’s family was the only one required to apply for funding.
  • The reports mentioned are available in the following links:
    • Chief Coroner, (2017) Report of the Chief Coroner to the Lord Chancellor. Fourth Annual Report 2016-2017. Available here.
    • Angiolini, E. (2017) Report of the independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody. Available here.
    • Jones, J. (2017) ‘The patronising disposition of unaccountable power’: A report to ensure the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is not repeated. Available here.