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Funding for inquests: giving families a voice

Non means-tested legal aid funding for inquests would encourage safer practices as well as allow families to be represented, argues Alice Stevens

16 April 2019

Legal aid for inquests is not within the scope of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2013. 

Instead, bereaved families rely on a separate pot of money, Exceptional Case Funding (ECF), for public funding and representation at an inquest. 

Between June and September 2018 there were 745 applications for ECF, only 65 per cent of which were granted. Of these 745 applications, 16 per cent related to inquests. That’s just 77 applications for inquests for which ECF was granted. 

Taken in the context of the 229,700 deaths reported to coroners for inquests in 2017 that number suddenly seems very small. 

When the strict criteria for ECF are not met, families often struggle to scrape together funds from savings, relying on lawyers acting pro bono or even resorting to crowdfunding. Those able to secure funding are then thrown into a process which is alien to most lawyers. 

Meanwhile, public authorities, ranging f...

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