Provide legal aid to all families at coroner's inquests into terror attacks

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James Hodder
James Hodder signed this petition

No one should have to face a coroner's inquest alone. Losing my partner Kirsty Boden in the London Bridge Terror attack on 3 June 2017 made me see how impossible this would be. She was so brave and lived to help people. But the legal team that helped us through these inquests has not been granted legal aid – and I find this shocking. Right now, there is no automatic right for the families of those killed in terrorist attacks to be legally represented. We're calling for this to change. 

A coroner's inquest is vital to examine wider circumstances of the attack and find lessons that must be learnt to prevent future deaths. Without representation it would be impossible for families to properly engage in the process. An inquest includes examination of huge volumes of complex material, debates on matters of law, and consideration of significant public interest issues; including the role of the government and security services in keeping the public safe, the response of the emergency services and physical security measures such as barriers in public places. 

We face continued threats from terrorists, and it is clearly in the public interest that they are examined by legally trained professionals.

The denial of funding is especially shocking considering every other public authority at this inquest (the Home Office, police, MI5, ambulance service etc.) had some of the UK's best barristers and solicitors representing them at the expense of the taxpayer. The families of the attackers were represented.  Put simply, this is not a level playing field.

The foreword to the “Final Report: Review of legal aid for inquests” completed by the Ministry of Justice in February 2019 says: “The Government is determined to ensure that bereaved families are properly supported and able to participate in the inquest process. This includes providing legal aid in cases where it is most needed.” We couldn’t agree more, and we call upon the government to review and update the funding for victims of terrorism to align to its own review.

We are not in court by choice and no family should have to face a battle for legal representation in these circumstances. In memory of Kirsty, we would like the Ministry of Justice's policy to change to ensure that it is the right of victims of terrorism facing an inquest to have access to experienced lawyers which are paid for by the state.  

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