From 12th January 2022, bereaved families will be able to apply for exceptional case funding (a type of legal aid) to cover legal representation at the inquest into the death of their loved one, without having to complete a means assessment.
The changes to the application process mean that:
New and pending applications for inquest funding will no longer require means assessments.
No further contributions are required from any families already in receipt of funding for inquest representation.
This means that, in cases where the merits criteria is met, families will no longer have to go through the lengthy means assessment process. The merits criteria centres around Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, namely the right to life. Families also now will not have to pay a contribution to the costs of legal representation, no matter what their income or savings are, again providing that the merits criteria is met.
Non-means tested legal help will also be available in cases where families are eligible for exceptional case funding, to cover the initial preparation costs and legal aid application in advance of the inquest.
The charity INQUEST has long been campaigning for this change, to ensure an equality of arms between bereaved families and state bodies at inquests. The Commons Justice Selection Committee published a report on 27th May 2021, commenting that bereaved families should not have to go through the ‘difficult and time consuming’ process of securing legal aid funding for inquest representation, especially when public authorities are represented using taxpayer funding.
If you require legal representation or advice about an inquest, or are unsure about your eligibility for legal aid to cover representation at an inquest, please contact our experienced inquest team on 0845 287 0939, by email or through the online chat below.