From 12 January 2022 bereaved families at certain inquests will finally be able to apply for legal aid without the need for means testing.
This first and very important step in ending an inequality in arms in inquest representation for bereaved families has been the result of 40 years of campaigning by the charity INQUEST, bereaved families and their supporters.
Our specialist Inquest team at Ison Harrison are delighted to have supported and been involved in both the campaign and various meetings, consultations and providing evidence for use at various committees and reports highlighting the unfairness for families being able to access justice for their loved ones.
From 12 January 2022 families will not have to provide their financial information as part of the funding application to be represented by advocates at the actual Inquest hearings if one of two criteria applies;
- The inquest engages Article 2 of the ECHR
- The inquest meets the significant wider public interest test as set out by the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance.
In practice the effect of these rule changes will mean that;
- New and pending applications for ECF inquest funding will no longer require means assessments
- There will be no further financial contributions required from the bereaved family for existing ECF certificates that are live on 12 January 2022
- No financial contribution will be asked from the bereaved family for any applications made after 12 January 2022
Disappointingly, although you will also be able to apply for Legal help on a non means tested basis at the same time as the ECF Grant of funding, it currently does not extend to Legal Helps that are opened prior to an application for ECF being made.
For now, those families will still have to apply for a Legal Help Waiver (if they are not financially eligible) where they will have to provide their means information over the previous 4 weeks for a legal help waiver to be made. We hope that the Legal Aid Agency and MOJ will make a change to this however this is not expected to happen any time soon.
Although this is good news and a vital step in the right direction we will continue to work closely with INQUEST in order to bring about further changes so funding can be accessed by all bereaved families where the inquest involves a public body.
Please contact us if you would like more information regarding this.