Families continue to face a battle for funded representation following the state-related deaths of their loved ones (Action urged over ‘unfair’ treatment of families at inquests, 10 October). Whether a death following police restraint, the result of neglectful state services, or a prisoner who has taken their life, families need answers and assurances that everything is being done to stop similar deaths in the future.
There remains an obscene power imbalance between bereaved relatives who fight tooth and nail for legal aid and state bodies granted automatic funding to defend and represent their interests. At a time of traumatic upheaval, families face insensitive and often adversarial processes. They find themselves pitted against legal teams representing state agencies and private providers, keen to shift responsibility for a death on to others, including the family. To have any chance of funding, families must jump through multiple hoops, answering extensive personal questions about themselves and wider family. Some are lucky to get legal aid, but many do not or face paying large sums towards legal costs. Some families are forced to represent themselves in complicated legal hearings while others resort to crowdfunding for their lawyers’ fees.
Without funded representation, families are denied their voice and any meaningful role. The absence of representation weakens investigations into state action, denying opportunities to interrogate the facts and ensure that mistakes or harmful practices are brought to light. Funded representation of the bereaved can safeguard lives, and should be of vital interest to us all.
Deborah Coles Director, Inquest
Dr Sara Ryan Mother of Connor Sparrowhawk
Dr Rosemary and Tim Tozer Parents of Daniel Tozer
Nadja Ensink Wife of Dr Jeroen Ensink
Marcia Rigg Sister of Sean Rigg
Lyn Hickman Sister of Glen Brough
Ajibola Lewis Mother of Olaseni Lewis
Tony Herbert Father of James Herbert
Andy and Amanda McCulloch Parents of Colette McCulloch
Aldyth and David Smith Parents of Bethan Smith
Anna Susianta Mother of Jack Susianta
Tania El-Keria Mother of Amy El-Keria
Ben Bennett Father of Sophie Bennett
Lee Jarman Brother of Kevin Scarlett
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