It has been reported today in the Law Gazette that High Court have given permission for a judicial review of the government’s policy on legal aid funding for inquests.
Mrs Justice Andrews recently permitted the challenge against the Lord Chancellor’s guidance on inquest funding, in relation to a case in which Ms Letts’ was originally denied legal aid representation for a four day inquest.
Ms Letts lost her brother, Christopher after he was hit by a train in Tooting, South London in 2013.
It was argued by her legal team that she did not have the relevant experience to represent herself. After issuing judicial review proceedings, the Legal Aid Agency reviewed its decision and agreed to grant funding.
According the Law Gazette, A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the department was “disappointed with the decision”, stating that legal aid for inquests has been “specifically protected” by the current government.
He continued by saying “As we set out to the Court, we believe that the Lord Chancellor’s guidance correctly describes the state’s obligations to protect life [as well as] the case law on circumstances where funding for representation is required.”
In legal terms, this potentially may open a number of opportunities for families who have lost loved ones, and who do not understand how the death of their loved one came about. Providing legal aid funding allows families access to experienced solicitors who will be able to guide and advise them on the best approach to the inquests, as well as provide representation at the inquest, and adheres to the fundamental principles within the Rule of Law.
As it currently stands, the incredibly strict criteria which families must pass to obtain legal aid funding, leaves many individuals facing the inquest process lost and alone whilst being in their darkest hour.
I can only hope that legal aid funding is provided to more families and helps them seek answers to questions surrounding a death of a loved one and placing accountability on the state, when necessary, by inviting them to consider their systems and procedures and how they could be changed for the benefit of society.
By Karan Ahluwalia, Hilary Meredith Solicitors.