Sign the petition 

4 March 2019

On 26 February, INQUEST launched our family led Now or Never! Legal Aid for Inquests campaign in parliament and opened a petition calling for the introduction of automatic non-means tested legal aid funding for bereaved families following state related deaths.

The petition gathered 2,000 signatories on the first day and has formal backing of Liberty, Grenfell United, Mind, United Families and Friends Campaign, The Bar Council, Cruse Bereavement Care, Legal Action Group, Legal Aid Practitioners Group, AvMA, Runnymede Trust, Criminal Justice Alliance, Operation Black Vote, Article 39, ICVA and INQUEST Lawyers Group.

The launch followed the decision by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to reject widely supported proposals and overwhelming evidence in favour of fair legal funding for bereaved people. The detail of this proposal is outlined in a new briefing by INQUEST. The briefing shows that every review and public inquiry that has considered these issues over the past 20 years has recommended that this injustice must be addressed.

Families will not be silenced!

Over 100 people gathered at the parliamentary meeting chaired by Rt Rev James Jones and attended by more than 40 bereaved families alongside MPs, Peers, lawyers and organisational representatives.

Rt Rev James Jones, author of the powerful Hillsborough report which calls for parity of funding between bereaved families and other parties, said that the current situation "is an offence to natural justice and a solution must be found".

We heard powerful contributions from families speaking about their personal battles for legal aid following the death of their loved one.

Dr Sara Ryan, mother of Connor Sparrowhawk, an 18 year old who drowned in a locked bathroom in an NHS unit, had to crowdfund £27,000 to cover their legal fees and were up against seven state-funded barristers.

“To suggest that we didn’t need legal representation at the outset was totally obscene and barbaric”

Tania El Keria spoke about being ‘devastated and disgusted’ when she was told that she did not need representation following the death of her 14 year old daughter, Amy El Keria at a Priory group run children’s inpatient high dependency unit.

“I have had to fight for legal aid, fight for justice. Without funding there is no justice. The state and its agents are automatically funded to have legal representation. So must we. Anything less is second rate justice for us and the ones we have lost.”

Tellecia Stracham, sister of Kevin Clarke, who died in London last year following police contact and restraint spoke about the intrusive process families face to provide information about their finances for the current means test, which causes additional suffering whilst families are already grieving.

“The state - you’re just provided with it with taxpayers’ money and it’s wrong and it’s not fair on the families.

There was a palpable sense anger and frustration in the room. When speaking about the Ministry of Justice’s proposals to provide better information, the Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer was interrupted by one family member who said “We don’t want guidance, we want funding!”.

Richard Burgon, shadow Justice Secretary, also spoke at the meeting, pledging that a Labour government would provide automatic legal aid at inquests for the families of those who died in state detention.

Closing the meeting, INQUEST’s director, Deborah Coles said; “We will hold the minister to account. Families will not be silenced. We will not be silenced. Change is possible.” 

Justice Minster, Lucy Frazer MP

#LegalAidforInquests in the media

  • Justice is a right - not something grieving families need to crowdfund, Guardian. 7 March 2019
  • No Funding, No Justice: Legal aid at inquests, OpenDemocracy, 1 March 2019
  • Bereaved families demand end to inquest ‘injustice’, The Times 26 February 2019
  • 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
  • We refuse to be silenced': MoJ urged to reconsider legal aid for inquests, The Law Society Gazette 27 February 2019
  • 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
  • Labour pledges legal aid for inquests into state-related deaths, The Times, 28 February 2019