It is time to level the playing field at inquests. Bereaved families must be granted automatic non means tested funding for legal representation following
state
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 Independent Review of the Mental Health Act 2019, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, the Joint Committee on Human rights 2018, 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 1999-2019 for more information 


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