On 5 February 2015 a Judicial Review brought by Joanna Letts was heard in relation to the Lord Chancellor’s guidance on public funding for lawyers representing interested parties at Inquests. The outcome of that hearing is eagerly awaited.
On 19 August 2014 Christopher Letts, Ms Letts’ brother, jumped to his death in front of a tube train in London. Mr Letts was mentally unwell and had been admitted as an inpatient at the Cygnet private hospital in Kewstoke on 12 August. Whilst at Cygnet he had expressed suicidal thoughts and made two attempts to take his own life. Despite this, he was discharged on 15 August, just four days before he died.
Understandably, Ms Letts wished to be represented at the Inquest into her brother’s death and argued that Cygnet had been in breach of the Article 2 of European Convention on Human Rights on the basis that it had failed to protect her brother’s life. Public funding is not generally available to those who need representing at an Inquest, unless Article 2 has been infringed.
Ms Letts’ application for legal aid funding was refused by the Legal Aid Agency who did not believe Article 2 had been infringed, and advised Ms Letts that she could represent herself at the Inquest. As most people would, Ms Letts felt overwhelmed at the thought of undertaking advocacy at the Inquest, not least because the hospital and the other five interested parties each had legal representation. Ms Letts was therefore at a disadvantage in trying to assist the Coroner in identifying the cause of her brother’s death.
The Legal Aid Agency has since agreed to fund Ms Letts’ legal representation, however she feels that the existing rules are unfair so is proceeding with a Judicial Review in the hope and families will in the future have access of legal representation to help establish why their loved one died.
Clarke Willmott is frequently instructed to represent the families of someone who has died at an Inquest into their death. We believe that a change in the rules allowing access to public funding at Inquests would ensure that everyone, not just those who can afford to pay privately, has access to advice and representation in respect of investigations into their loved one’s death.
If you or anyone you know has been affected by issues relating to Inquests, please contact James Edmondson, specialist Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Clarke Willmott on 0345 209 1491 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.