The Legal Aid Agency granted the family of teenager Molly Russell Legal Aid to be represented at the Inquest into her death, after initially denying the family funding as it did not consider there was “a wider public interest”.
The family will also have to contribute towards costs.
Molly Russell was found dead in her bedroom in November 2017. The family were concerned regarding the role of Social Media and her death.
Whilst welcoming the news, it is disappointing that the family had to appeal. It is fair to say many other families are not successful in their Appeals and cannot afford to bring a Judicial Review against the Legal Aid Agency.
This leaves them either reliant on lawyers working for free, fund raising or having to represent themselves at an Inquest, completely unqualified and unprepared against experienced legal teams on the other side.
The Legal Aid Agency have re-iterated that
“exceptional case funding is available for cases which are not in scope of the Legal Aid, Sentencing or Punishment of Offenders Act 2012”.
The campaign charity Inquest which has urged the Ministry of Justice to reconsider its decision to not introduce automatic legal aid for certain cases says there is increasing political and public concern about social media’s impact on the mental health of young people.
The inquest into Molly’s death will be an opportunity to publicly scrutinise relevant issues and therefore serve an important public interest. Her family needed legal representation in order to participate fully in this complex process, along side the large and well-funded corporate bodies who will likely be interested parties.
Regretfully however, the Ministry of Justice stated their recent review of Inquests found that legal representation is not necessarily for the vast majority of cases but they are making a number of changes to the system to make it more accessible and supportive. This includes reviewing means test requirements and simplifying the application process.
If you find yourself or any member of your family involved in an Inquest process and would like help from any of our specialists, please contact us at any of our six offices at Boston, Lincoln, Newark, Grantham, Sleaford and Spalding.