A breakthrough has been made in relation to the access of legal aid in inquests. The precedent set by the High Court in the case of Joanna Letts means that bereaved families will be entitled to legal aid where the state is thought to be implicit in the death. Prior to the ruling there was a limited scope under which families could qualify for funding; leaving many grieving parties deprived of professional representation. It is hoped that the judgement will result in a fairer process for bereaved people who are forced not only come to terms with the trauma of loosing a loved one, but also faced with the distress of ascertaining accountability.
Joanna Letts led the campaign challenging the restrictions on legal aid after she was initially denied funding for representation by the Legal Aid Agency at an inquest into the death of her brother. She was informed that she would have to represent herself as she was not eligible for legal aid and unable to finance a lawyer herself, despite the professional bodies involved such as the doctors and social workers being represented by a legal official.
However, when faced with the threat of judicial review the LLA eventually revoked their decision, granting Letts access to state funded representation. Letts continued to campaign, ensuring that funding would be granted across the board where a state organisation is implicated in a death.
When giving his decision Mr Justice Green stated that the exception funding guidance regarding inquests in the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act was “materially misleading and inaccurate.” Similarly, The Equality and Human Rights Commission also highlighted the injustice of the legislation and current restrictions stating: “The right to life is the most precious human right a person can have. It includes the right of bereaved families to be involved in investigations into the deaths of their loved ones. We are pleased that the court agreed with us that where the situation demands it, a family involved in an inquest does need legal aid for representation.”
Here at Farleys we released that dealing with the loss of a loved one is a difficult and distressing time for all families. We have a wealth of expertise in this area of law, and our dedicated solicitors will work tirelessly to deliver the answers you deserve. If you require advice or assistance regarding the death of a loved one please don’t hesitate to contact Farleys’ Inquest team on 0845 050 1958, or please complete an online enquiry form.