Legal Aid for Inquests — [Mrs Anne Main in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 10th April 2019.

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Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:30 pm, 10th April 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered legal aid for inquests.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mrs Main. This debate is about a simple premise: who can access justice, and who cannot? Much to our shame, during inquests, too many people who have experienced appalling loss and suffering fall into the latter category. This debate is about deaths in state detention and custody, or where there is a public interest, and about how the families of those lost should be given adequate resources to find the truth. It is about a fair request for a non-intrusive, non-means-tested, automatic right to legal aid for legal representation for bereaved families. The charity Inquest claims that granting such a request will cost as little as £5 million, yet it will be invaluable to suffering families who need answers. The topic of legal aid for inquests has rightly moved up the political agenda, and I pay tribute to Inquest and other campaigners who have worked tirelessly to make that so.

A huge injustice sits at the very heart of our justice system. On the one hand, state bodies and representatives are equipped with access to unlimited funds and resources —the best experts and the best legal teams. On the other hand, vulnerable families in the midst of grief are forced to navigate a complex and alien application process that is provided with the bare minimum of support—indeed, most people will not even receive that.