Following our blog on 13 February, Mr Justice Green has handed down his Judgment in the case of R Joanna Letts) v Lord Chancellor and The Equality and Human Rights Commissionas to whether or not the Lord Chancellor’s guidance on funding representation at Inquests through Legal Aid is wrong.
Ms Letts, the Claimant in the matter, argued that the guidance set by the Lord Chancellor introduced a threshold that was too high, denying access to legal representation of the loved ones of the deceased. Please see our previous blog for details of Ms Letts case.
Under the guidance, only in cases where there was thought to be a breach by the state of its obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the “Right to Life”, would funding be available. Mr Justice Green has ruled that this is too restrictive, and that loved ones should be provided with Legal Aid funding in all cases where the state has a duty to investigate possible failings that could have contributed to the death, regardless of whether or not they pose a breach of Article 2.
Mr Justice Green is yet to decide how the guidance should be changed to accommodate this clarification in policy, but in principle, loved ones of those who died whilst in the care of the state, for example in NHS hospitals or the Police, could be entitled to funding for their lawyers to represent their interest at an Inquest, if the circumstances dictate that the death be investigated.
This is a welcomed development for people like Ms Letts who until now have been unable to afford the costs of lawyers to represent them at an Inquest. Lawyers’ costs are generally not recoverable from any party in Inquest proceedings, meaning that private funding is often the only option where Legal Aid is not available, although there may be exceptions where a claim for compensation is contemplated.
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.