Review of legal aid for inquests

Closes 31 Aug 2018

Opened 19 Jul 2018

Overview

An inquest is a distinct judicial process. It is a public hearing held to determine who the deceased was, and how, when and where they died. It can be a traumatic ordeal for the bereaved, both in hearing how their loved ones died and through the frustration in the search for answers.

However, that search to find out what happened is important in helping the bereaved to understand and make sense of their loss as well as ensuring that there is proper accountability.

As such, legal aid is available for families seeking early legal advice in the lead up to the inquest hearing. The Government also recognises that in some circumstances legal representation may be necessary for the inquest proceedings. That is why we have made sure funding for representation is available, where it is necessary, through the Exceptional Case Funding scheme.

Recently, criticisms have been levelled against the current availability of legal aid for inquests. Reports have highlighted the need to examine the provision of legal aid for death in custody cases and deaths where the state may have been involved. A better understanding of cases where the state has legal representation is needed to inform discussions about equality of arms for bereaved people more generally.

This call for evidence seek views on people’s experiences of the current inquests system. We want to ensure that bereaved families are properly supported and able to participate in the inquest process.

This paper outlines the current position and seeks to identify potential areas for improvement or where more might be done. Part of this includes looking at the provision of legal aid for legal help and legal representation of bereaved families at inquests.

Respondents are asked whether more needs to be done to ensure that bereaved families can properly participate in these cases. More specifically, this paper aims to better understand the circumstances in which families may require legal representation to allow for a fair inquest process, and whether changes need to be made to current eligibility criteria.

Responses gathered from this exercise will be used to widen our existing evidence base and ensure that we have robust information on the types of inquest cases that families might need additional support.

They will be used to establish whether there is a need for families to have advice and representation at specific types of inquests to enable proper participation and understanding during proceedings. They will also be used more broadly to ensure that all bereaved people are sufficiently supported throughout the inquest process.

Once we have secured more evidence, we will then consider possible changes to our existing policies. Any prospective changes to policy will be subsequently presented in a public consultation, in which members of the public will be invited to respond to any proposals.

A welsh translation of the full call for evidence paper can be requested at inquestreviewmoj@justice.gov.uk.

Give Us Your Views

Audiences

  • Coroners
  • Voluntary organisations
  • Coroners
  • Charities
  • Voluntary organisations
  • Government departments
  • Legal professionals

Interests

  • Legal aid