Lord Boateng – 2014 Parliamentary Question to the Ministry of Justice

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Lord Boateng on 2014-03-27.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what guidelines have been issued to the Legal Aid Agency to ensure that families of deceased victims are legally represented at an inquest where criminal charges have previously been investigated.

Lord Faulks

The Government is confident that the inquest system is functioning effectively following reforms introduced last July under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. We are committed to reviewing the impact of the reforms in 2015.

In addition, the Government has specifically protected legal aid for families at inquests. Legal Help (the advice and assistance level of legal aid) remains routinely available within the scope of the civil legal aid scheme. In exceptional circumstances funding can also be provided for the family’s legal representation at the inquest pursuant to section 6(8)(b) of the Access to Justice Act 1999 (AJA) or section 10(1) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) (the applicable legislation depending on the date of the original application). A means test applies but can be waived in certain circumstances.

The Lord Chancellor is prevented by statute from giving directions and guidance to the Legal Aid Agency in relation to an individual case, but has published general guidance to which the Director of Legal Aid Casework must have regard when making individual decisions on applications for exceptional funding for representation at inquests. The guidance sets out the relevant criteria and specifically addresses inquests where there is a death in custody or a death in the course of police arrest, search, pursuit or shooting.

Following a review of its decision in the Groce family’s case, the Legal Aid Agency made a funding request to the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor has considered the request and has granted funding