Our legal system is letting down bereaved families

A woman whose daughter died while playing in an east London park has said it is “disgraceful” she has been denied legal aid for the inquest.

Alexia Walenkaki, 5, was playing on a rope swing in Mile End Park when a tree trunk holding the swing fell on her.  Her mother Vida Kwotuah said the “complex” case was “unmanageable without representation”.  She said she had been denied aid because her case was not considered to be in the public interest.

Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son at Hillsborough has also recently called for a “level playing field” for bereaved families in legal fights against public bodies.  Mrs Aspinall told MPs it was a “disgrace” South Yorkshire Police was publicly-funded during the inquests but the families were not.

I agree with both Mothers. This situation simply has to stop.

How any parent can be expected to cope with a legal process into the death of their child and ask appropriate questions is beyond me.

It will be interesting to see if Tower London Hamlets has legal representation and how this is funded. It will no doubt come from the public purse and is not a level playing field.

I have raised the matter with Justice Secretary, Michael Gove and received a reply Shailesh Vara MP, Minister for Courts and Legal Aid saying that Inquests “are specifically designed so that people without legal knowledge can participate in and understand the proceedings, without the need for legal representation”.

The Ministry of Justice is naive in thinking an Inquest is non adversarial.

I act in a number of military Inquests, where the MoD will have their solicitors plus a QC and a junior barrister, yet there is no funding available for families.  If there is no need for legal representation why does the establishment roll out a team of legal bit hitters?

Our legal system is badly letting down bereaved families.


Hilary Meredith