Campaigns INQUEST Campaigns Now or Never! Legal aid for inquests It is time to level the playing field at inquests. Bereaved families must be granted automatic non means tested funding for legal representation followingstate related deaths. SIGN THE PETITION READ THE BRIEFING State bodies and representatives have unlimited access to public funding for the best legal teams and experts. At a time when they are grieving and at their most vulnerable, families face complex and demanding funding application processes. Some are lucky to get legal aid, but many do not or face paying large sums towards legal costs. Some are forced to represent themselves, while others have to appeal to the generosity of strangers through crowdfunding. Whether it is the death of a child in a mental health setting, the self-inflicted death of a prisoner, or a death as a result of neglectful state services, families experience a profound, yet unnecessary, injustice. Without funded representation, families are denied their voice and meaningful participation in the processes of investigation, learning and accountability. This inequality of arms is an unacceptable curtailing of justice, undermining the preventative potential of inquests, to interrogate the facts and ensure harmful practices are brought to light. Inquests following state related deaths are intended to seek the truth, to expose unsafe practices and abuses of state power. But the reality faced by most families is of multiple expert legal teams defending the interests and reputations of state and corporate bodies - fighting to shut down or narrow lines of enquiry, with a primary focus on damage limitation. More than any other party, the overriding objective of bereaved families is to bring about changes to prevent future deaths, to stop others going through what they have faced. Our public interest is served by their actions and the changes they bring about. And yet they alone are forced to fight for funding. This inequality of arms is the most significant injustice in the coronial system. Every review and public inquiry exploring these issues has repeated the urgent need for funding reform. However, in February 2019, the Ministry of Justice published its review into funding for inquests with a rejection of the widespread call for change. 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. This is not what justice looks like. INQUEST, bereaved families and lawyers, are calling for: Automatic non means tested legal aid funding to families for specialist legal representation immediately following a state related death to cover preparation and representation at the inquest and other legal processes. Funding equivalent to that enjoyed by state bodies/public authorities and corporate bodies represented. Learn more about the experiences of families fighting for funding. Supporters This family-led INQUEST campaign has the formal backing of the following organisations: Liberty, Grenfell United, United Friends and Families Campaign, 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. The call for legal aid for inquests following state related deaths has been backed by numerous independent reports and public bodies, dating back as far as the 1999 Macpherson report. This includes recent support from the Justice Select Committee 2021, the Victims' Commissioner 2021, the Bar Council 2021, JUSTICE 2020, Independent Review of the Mental Health Act 2019, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, the Joint Committee on Human rights 2018 and 2019, the previous and current Chief Coroner, the Independent Review of the response to the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster by Bishop James Jones 2017, and the Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody 2017 by Dame Elish Angiolini QC. See the timeline of official support from 1999-2021 for more information Resources INQUEST Briefing: Now or Never! Legal Aid for Inquests, February 2019 INQUEST Blog: No Funding, no justice, OpenDemocracy, March 2019 Timeline: Legal Aid for Inquests Timeline - Official support 1999-2019 Case studies: Family experiences accessing legal aid Media release: Ministry of Justice rejects widespread call for automatic legal aid for families following state related deaths, February 2019, INQUEST Submission: INQUEST submission to the Ministry of Justice call for evidence on legal aid, August 2018. Submission: INQUEST Lawyers Group submission to the Ministry of Justice call for evidence on legal aid, September 2018. Parliamentary Debate: Legal Aid for Inquests, Westminster Hall, April 2019, Watch or read the transcript Parliament: The Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, reiterated that his party is committed to ensuring legal aid funding for bereaved families at inquests during Prime Minister’s Questions, 10 July 2019 Parliament: Richard Burgon MP questions Paul Maynard MP in Parliament on legal aid at inquests, 4 June 2019 Parliamentary Briefing: Legal aid for representation at inquests, House of Commons Library, April 2019 Article: Now or Never! Legal Aid for Inquests, Legal Action Group Magazine, May 2019 Parliamentary Briefing: Legal Aid for Inquests, November 2018, INQUEST Submission: INQUEST submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights Attitudes to Enforcement Inquiry, March 2018. Oral evidence to the Committee with Deborah Coles, Sara Ryan, Richard Huggins, Louise Rowland and Simon Rowland, March 2018. INQUEST blog: Families tell Parliament why bereaved relatives need legal aid at inquests, March 2018. Joint Committee on Human Rights: report on The detention of young people with learning disabilities and/or autism recommends legal aid for inquests by urging the Government to revise financial eligibility criteria, November 2019 In the news News: Legal aid tussle over grieving families who crowdfund inquests, Guardian 29 December 2019 News: Legal aid 'failures exposed' by Stephen Berry death in custody case, says charity INQUEST, ITV Tyne Tees 23 December 2019 News: Interview with family and lawyer of Charlotte Nokes on legal aid funding for inquests - Look East (West) BBC News 14 October 2019 News: Families versus the state: An unfair fight? BBC File on 4 and ‘I struggled to do my mum justice at her inquest’ – Dr Becky Montacute’s story. BBC Stories 01 October 2019 Media release: Families versus the state: An unfair fight? #LegalAidforInquests. INQUEST 01 October 2019 News: ‘Why did my girlfriend’s killer’s family get legal aid when we didn’t?’ Boyfriend of London Bridge hero nurse demands help for terror victims’ relatives Independent 03 August 2019 News: Families of Manchester terror victims ‘must declare valuables’ to get legal aid. Observer 03 August 2019 News: Bob and Maggie Abrahart, parents of Natasha Abrahart who died whilst at Bristol University, had to crowdfund for their legal representation at the inquest into her death. Channel 5 News 30 July 2019 News: Legal aid system in crisis, 70 years since launch – campaigners ITV 30 July 2019 News: Government ‘ignoring’ calls for legal aid funding at inquests Morning Star 29 July 2019 News: ‘The greatest celebration we can make of legal aid is to commit to it’ The Justice Gap 19 July 2019 News: Grieving mum demands automatic legal aid for inquest families ITV 13 July 2019 News: Bristol's mental health service spends almost £200k a year representing itself at inquests Bristol Live 26 June 2019 News: Woman told to pay towards inquest into daughter's death in care Guardian 24 May 2019 News: My sister died in prison three years ago, and I’m still fighting to find out why Metro 21 May 2019 News: A Woman Died In Prison Six Years Beyond The Sentence For Her Crime. Now Her Family Have To Crowdfund To Prepare For Her Inquest BuzzFeed 21 May 2019 Media release: New figures highlight gross injustice faced by bereaved families at inquests INQUEST 10 April 2019 News: Families of people who die in prison custody face 'uneven playing field' in inquests, figures suggest Independent 10 April 2019 News: Spending on jail staff legal fees 46-times more than for bereaved Guardian 10 April 2019 News: MPs tell Gauke to review legal aid for inquests, Law Gazette, 16 May 2019 News: MoJ spent £4.2m on lawyers for prison officers at inquests, Guardian, 10 April 2019 News:What next for Justice?, Open Democracy, 7 March 2019. Article: No funding, no justice: Legal aid at inquests, Deborah Coles for Open Democracy, 1 March 2019. News: Justice is a right - not something grieving families need to crowdfund, Guardian. 7 March 2019. News: Families will not be silenced. We will not be silenced. Change is possible. Report of campaign launch in parliament. March 2019. Media release: Bereaved families refuse to be ignored by Ministry of Justice as they launch campaign on legal aid for inquests, 26 February 2019, INQUEST News: Bereaved families demand end to inquest ‘injustice’, The Times 26 February 2019 News: Government Minister Tells Bereaved Families She Stands By Plans Not to Give Those Whose Relatives Die in State Care the Right to Automatic Legal Aid, ByLine Times 27 February 2019 News: We refuse to be silenced': MoJ urged to reconsider legal aid for inquests, The Law Society Gazette 27 February 2019 News: Labour promises automatic legal aid for state-related deaths: Shadow lord chancellor says families must not be reduced to ‘shaking a collection tin’, Guardian 27 February 2019 and Labour pledges legal aid for inquests into state-related deaths, The Times, 28 February 2019 Media release: Ministry of Justice rejects widespread call for automatic legal aid for families following state related deaths, February 2019, INQUEST News: 'Calls for emergency legal aid for relatives of those who die in custody', The Guardian, 10 October 2018 Media Release: 'Human Rights Committee back INQUEST's call for better access to justice for bereaved families' 19 July 2018.