Updated: Feb 2019

Every independent review and public inquiry that has considered issues faced by bereaved families over the past 20 years has recommended that the inequality of arms between bereaved families and the state at inquests should be addressed. Yet the Ministry of Justice have disregarded the overwhelming evidence and ignored the voices of bereaved families. For more information see the campaign page

Official support 1999-2019

1999

Macpherson – Stephen Lawrence Inquiry

Report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.

That consideration be given to the provision of Legal Aid to victims or the families of victims to cover representation at an Inquest in appropriate cases.

2003

Independent Review of the Coroners Services - Commissioned by the Home Office, chaired by Tom Luce

Death Certification and Investigation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland: the Report of a Fundamental Review.

We consider that the inquest should so far as possible be conducted in a style that is accessible to unrepresented lay people, and that the current criteria for awarding legal aid at inquests are broadly satisfactory. We recommend, however, that there should be a more liberal interpretation of the criteria in cases where a public authority is represented.

2004

Joint Committee on Human Rights

Deaths in custody, Third Report of Session 2004-05, Vol 1 2004.

Participation of the next of kin in the investigation into a death in custody is an essential ingredient of Article 2 compliance… In all cases of deaths in custody, funding of legal assistance should be provided to the next of kin.

2007

Corston Report  

A report by Baroness Jean Corston of a review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system.

Public funding must be provided for bereaved families for proper legal representation at inquests relating to deaths in state custody that engage the state’s obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Funding should not be means tested and any financial eligibility test should be removed whenever Article 2 is engaged. Funding should also cover reasonable travel, accommodation and subsistence costs of families’ attendance at inquests.

2015

Harris Review

Changing Prisons, Changing Lives: Report of the Independent Review into Self Inflicted Deaths in Custody of 18-24 year olds by Lord Toby Harris.

Families of the deceased should have a right to non-means tested public funding for legal representation at an inquest.

2016

HHJ Peter Thornton QC, Chief Coroner

Report of the Chief Coroner to the Lord Chancellor: Third Annual Report: 2015 – 2016.

The Chief Coroner therefore recommends that the Lord Chancellor gives consideration to amending his Exceptional Funding Guidance (Inquests)35 so as to provide exceptional funding for legal representation for the family where the state has agreed to provide separate representation for one or more interested persons.

2017

Angiolini Review

Report of the Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody by Rt. Hon. Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC.

For the state to fulfil its legal obligations of allowing effective participation of families in the process that is meaningful and not “empty and rhetorical” there should be access for the immediate family to free, non-means tested legal advice, assistance and representation immediately following the death and throughout the Inquest hearing.

  

2017

Bach Commission

The Right to Justice: The final report of the Bach Commission.

Where the state is funding one or more of the other parties at an inquest, it should also provide legal aid for representation of the family of the deceased.

2017

Hillsborough Review

The patronising disposition of unaccountable power: A report to ensure the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is not repeated by The Right Reverend Bishop James Jones.

Publicly funded legal representation should be made available to bereaved families at inquests at which a public authority is to be legally represented. This could be achieved through amendments to the Ministry of Justice’s Lord Chancellor’s Exceptional Funding Guidance (Inquests) and should not need primary legislation. The requirement for a means test and financial contribution from the family should also be waived in these cases. Where necessary, funding for pathology or other expert evidence should also be made available.

2017

HHJ Mark Lucraft QC, Chief Coroner

Report of the Chief Coroner to the Lord Chancellor. Fourth Annual Report: 2016-2017.

The Chief Coroner therefore recommends that the Lord Chancellor gives consideration to amending the Exceptional Funding Guidance (Inquests) so as to provide exceptional funding for legal representation for the family where the state has agreed to provide separate representation for one or more interested persons.

2018

Joint Committee on Human Rights

Enforcing human rights. Tenth Report of Session 2017-2019.

 

While inquests are theoretically inquisitorial, in practice they often have a more adversarial nature. If inquests are to remain inquisitorial, families must be given non-means tested funding for legal representation at inquests where the state has separate representation for one or more interested persons.

2018

Ministry of Justice: Review of legal aid for inquests

Call for evidence, July 2018.

Recent reports have highlighted the need to examine the provision of legal aid for death in custody cases and deaths where the state may have been involved. A better understanding of cases where the state has legal representation is needed to inform discussions about equality of arms for bereaved people more generally.

2018

Independent Office for Police Conduct

Consultation response: to MoJ’s call for evidence regarding legal representation for families at Inquests.

We believe legal aid should be automatically available to bereaved families following deaths in custody or other state detention. This is particularly critical at inquests, as legal proceedings are often complex and other parties, including the police, will ordinarily be represented.

2019

Final report of the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act

Modernising the Mental Health Act: Increasing choice, reducing compulsion chaired by Sir Simon Wessely.

Funding should be available for the families of those who have died unnaturally, violently or by suicide whilst detained, to receive non means tested legal aid. This would be to help families to understand the processes, their rights, and what steps they can take. This would include funding to attend the inquest, but should also be available to support families immediately after the death of the patient.

2019

Ministry of Justice, Final Report: Review of legal aid for inquests

We have decided that we will not be introducing non means tested legal aid for inquests where the state has representation.