To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what estimate he has made of the cost of legal representation of the Government at inquests into all cases where the state is represented including (a) deaths in custody, (b) deaths of military personnel on active service and (c) hospital deaths in (i) 2007-08, (ii) 2008-09 and (iii) 2009-10; and how much his Department spent on legal aid for families of the deceased in such cases.
The Ministry does not have oversight of the provision of legal advice to the Government as a whole and as such the Ministry does not hold information on the cost of legal advice to other departments. The estimated cost of the provision of legal advice and representation of the Government at inquests following the deaths of military personnel on active service and hospital deaths are matters for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Department for Health (DoH) respectively.
The Ministry does, however, have responsibility for the welfare of prisoners, and, as such, it has obtained legal advice and representation from the Treasury Solicitor's Department and Counsel at inquests following the deaths of prisoners in custody. These costs came to £1.8 million in 2007-08; £2.2 million in 2008-09 and £2.7 million in 2009-10.
Legal aid funding for inquests is not within scope of the legal aid scheme. Nevertheless, under the Access to Justice Act 1999, the Lord Chancellor has the power to authorise the Legal Services Commission to grant exceptional legal aid funding in cases which are not within the scope of the civil legal aid scheme. The total amount spent on exceptional funding was £1.1 million in 2007-08; £1.5 million in 2008-09 and £1.6 million in 2009-10. While most of the applications for exceptional funding are for inquests, it is not possible to disaggregate the expenditure on inquests from the total amount spent on exceptional funding.