The family of murdered Police Officer, Keith Palmer, have called for urgent reform to the legal aid system following their difficulties in obtaining legal representation at the inquest into his death in 2017.
The family were left feeling let down by the system after having to rely on pro bono representation at Keith's inquest because their application for state funding had not been processed by the Legal Aid agency.
Although legal representation is not considered necessary at an inquest (as they are fact-finding rather than adversarial), it can prove invaluable for bereaved families in guiding them through the process - not only by helping them to participate but supporting them as well.
Without funding many families are left without the answers surrounding a family member's death. The lack of funding for the Palmer family prevented them from being able to call expert witnesses to ask vital questions about how Keith died and in particular whether his life could have been saved.
In a small number of cases, legal aid can be applied for under "exceptional funding" criteria: eg where it is necessary to carry out an investigation into a death, as required by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which protects the right to life), or if there is sufficient public interest. However, funding is only granted for around half of the applications made, highlighting a desperate need for reform in the law.
Commenting on the position, Barry Grogan, Personal Injury specialist at Fosters said "legal representation at inquests should be made available to everyone who needs it regardless of means. It is desperately sad to see families who need this support and guidance at such a harrowing time are being deprived of such support by an unbalanced legal aid system".
If you require legal representation at an inquest, or feel that the death of a family member was caused by the negligence of medical or other professionals and may have been prevented, please call us on 0800 731 8539 or email us for a no obligation chat.