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Insight

Funding inquests - What are the options?

Many individuals and organisations have been campaigning to change the current inquest process. The question arises as to whether inquests remain relevant and whether bereaved families are satisfied by the current process.

The lack of non-means tested funding has been a particular point of contention. Many feel that the lack of funding regularly leads to inequality of arms, with families often having to attend inquests without representation. The 2017 landmark review by Dame Elish Angiolini on deaths and serious incidents in police custody recommended non-means tested public funding to enable families to effectively participate in the process in a meaningful way. However, earlier this year the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice published his report into the review of legal aid for inquests. The report concludes that ‘having considered the impact of additional representatives on bereaved families, the financial considerations, and the impact of a possible expansion on the wider legal aid scheme, we have decided that we will not be introducing non-means tested legal aid for inquest where the state has representation.’

Inquests remain an indispensable process for bereaved families, often answering questions and identifying important lessons to be learned. Many organisations such as INQUEST continue to campaign for change to the process to bring equality and to ensure that bereaved families are able to properly engage with the process while feeling adequately supported.

Although inquests are primarily a process of fact finding, if the death was caused by wrongdoing then a civil claim may also be initiated. Fieldfisher can support families in this way. If we are approached prior to the inquest regarding the civil element of the claim, we may be able to represent the family at the inquest using funds from the civil claim.

Inquests can have a huge physical and emotional impact on bereaved families. At Fieldfisher, we focus on supporting our clients through this difficult process.

The charity INQUEST is running an important campaign to have legal aid funding provided to all families needing representation at Inquests and more information on that can be found on their website at  www.inquest.org.uk.

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