Last week, I spoke in Parliament about the need to ensure that people have access to legal aid for inquests.
This debate focused particularly on inquests relating to deaths in state custody and the right of bereaved families to automatically receive non-means-tested legal aid. As it stands, state authorities are able to draw on their huge resources to access the very best legal advice and representation, whereas bereaved families are forced to navigate a complex application process to gain an inadequate level of support.
For many families, inquests are a way of ensuring that that the state does not repeat mistakes or criminal acts that have resulted in the death of a loved one. It’s grossly unfair then for the state’s legal representation to be so thoroughly weighted against victims.
Unfortunately, such injustices are common in our underfunded legal aid system. Since 2013, the Government has reduced its legal aid expenditure by around £350 million each year and, as a result, many people who are unable to bear the cost of legal fees by themselves are denied access to advice and representation.
That’s why I’ve previously spoken about the need to ensure that legal fees don’t prevent people from pursuing cases in the family courts, asylum system, and employment tribunals. I’ll continue to press the Government to properly fund legal aid so that everyone has access to justice, regardless of their income.