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Funding for Article 2 Inquests

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If a member of your family dies whilst in psychiatric hospital, should you get Legal Aid to fund representation at the Inquest that follows?

The clinical negligence experts at Shoosmiths Serious Injury believe you should to ensure that there is an equality of arms.

The state will be represented and the family need the same level of representation. Only that way will changes come about to prevent such deaths occurring in the future.

We are therefore pleased to hear the government’s announcement that, from 12 January 2022, eligibility for Legal Aid has been extended for families whose loved one’s death gives rise to an Article 2 Inquest.

What is an Article 2 Inquest?

If a family member passes away while under the state’s care, such as in a psychiatric hospital or in police custody, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights is invoked. This is because the state owes a duty of care to protect the individual they have in their detention. A detailed investigation into their death will therefore take place.

Recent changes to funding

From 12 January 2022, the Government have removed the requirement of ‘means testing’ for exceptional case funding. Article 2 Inquests fall within this category of funding.

Previously, families who required legal representation at an Article 2 Inquest had to endure an intrusive and scrutinizing investigation into their finances to qualify for Legal Aid funding. If this stage was not passed, they would not qualify, even if they had a really strong case. This meant families would often be forced to pay thousands of pounds for representation at inquest or go unrepresented at a highly vulnerable time.

The rules have recently been changed by the Lord Chancellor so that the financial means test does not apply if there is a procedural obligation by the state to undertake an inquest under Article 2 of the ECHR.

This positive change will avoid further undue stress on bereaved families who are already going through an extremely distressing period of their lives and who deserve answers as to the circumstances of their loved one’s death. It also makes the process fairer so that families can contribute meaningfully to the process and ensure their voices are heard. Effective inquests where the correct questions are asked are vital in learning lessons to prevent future deaths.

How can Shoosmiths help?

The bereavement of a family member is undoubtedly one of the most emotionally challenging times of your life, particularly if the circumstances are suspicious. Here at Shoosmiths, we can offer the support and representation you need to guide you through the inquest process. We will ensure the right questions are asked to get you the answers you deserve.

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Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022

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