The coroner's court may not receive the same focus as other courts but inquests provide a vital role in not only establishing why someone died but in enabling the State to be held to account for its actions or omissions; in particular where these have contributed to a person's death. This role, independent of any function of the civil or criminal court, is vital to ensure lessons are learned and, so far as possible, prevent future deaths from the same or a similar act or omission.
Challenging the State is an intimidating prospect for bereaved families, even for those with resources available to them. For those who lack such resources the playing field is far from level; all the more so following the government's decision not to automatically provide such bereaved families with legal aid – a situation completely at odds with the State which always has legal representation, often of the most experienced and skilled type available.
The campaign charity Inquest recently revealed that in 2017 the Ministry of Justice spent at least £4.2m on legal representation for State-run departments and services at inquests whilst bereaved families received only £92,000 in legal aid for their own representation.
These figures demonstrate the real 'David and Goliath' struggle families face to ensure State authorities such as the Police, NHS or mental health services are held to account for their failings. At the recent inquests of Thomas and Katherine Kemp Fosters stepped in to represent the bereaved family who were faced with four different State authorities, each of whom had their own publicly funded legal representation.
Inquest has urged the government to revisit its decision but in the meantime families must largely fend for themselves, making it a vastly unequal uphill struggle to ensure that failings of the State come to light.
If you or your family have suffered a loss as a result of mistakes or neglect by a State service or department you may be entitled to representation and compensation.
If you would like to discuss your circumstances on a free no obligation basis please speak to one of our human rights and inquest specialists. We can be contacted on 0800 731 8539 or email us.