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Exceptional Case Funding Scheme

Volume 632: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2017

16. What plans he has to review the criteria for the exceptional case funding scheme for coroners’ inquests involving multiple deaths to ensure that close family members have legal representation. (902755)

We are looking at ways to make inquests more sensitive to the needs of bereaved families. The Lord Chancellor will update the guidance on exceptional case funding by the end of the year, and we will also look at this issue as part of the wider LASPO—Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012—review.

My hon. Friend will be aware that I raised the case of the Shoreham air show crash with the Prime Minister at questions a month ago. The Legal Aid Agency has refused exceptional case funding to the families of the victims. Can it be right that the families of the victims of an event that at the time resulted in the largest civilian loss of life since 7/7 might be the only ones not to have legal representation at the coroners’ inquest next year, not least when there is a wider public interest for the over 2 million people who attend 300-plus civilian air shows each year?

My deepest sympathies go to the victims of the Shoreham airshow disaster. My hon. Friend knows that I cannot comment on individual decisions, but I can say that we have protected early legal advice for inquests within the scope of legal aid, and there is an opportunity to look at the issue more broadly as part of the LASPO review. Legal aid is decided independently, but it was granted in over half of cases where inquest applications were made last year.