Letter to The Times (Monday 7 February)
When hospitals, local authorities and other offices of the State are involved in an inquest, their legal representation is funded by the public purse. Yet the family of the person who has died, sometimes in the most dreadful circumstances, is usually refused any publicly-funded aid.
An opportunity has been missed in the Judicial Review and Courts Bill to redress the balance for distressed relatives who are currently thrown, unsupported, into an unfamiliar process.
The disparity can make a fundamental difference to the coroner’s conclusion. Families need to know the right questions to ask, call the appropriate witnesses, and make sense of reams of information and distressing details about what happened to their loved ones.
The Right Reverend James Jones called for publicly-funded representation at inquests in his report on the experiences of the Hillsborough families. The House of Commons Justice Select Committee has said the same, as have many charities and support groups which work directly with bereaved families. As the Bill goes to the House of Lords on Monday, peers must take this chance to correct the cruel inequality of arms.
Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)