My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
With the agreement of the Lord Chancellor, I am pleased to announce the amendments to the Lord Chancellor’s authorisation on inquest funding and related changes to the Community Legal Service (Financial) Regulations 2000. These amendments came into force on 2 October 2006 and will streamline the process for providing legal aid in those exceptional inquests that require it.
Since 1 November 2001, the Legal Services Commission (LSC) has had the power to grant funding for advocacy, to the immediate family of the deceased, at certain inquests where the deceased has died in police or prison custody, or in the course of police arrest, search, pursuit or shooting.
From 2 October 2006, the LSC will also be able to grant funding for advocacy in certain inquests where the deceased has died while detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. The LSC will also have the power to waive the financial eligibility limits—and, where appropriate, financial contributions—for legal aid in these inquests. For all other inquests, the Lord Chancellor retains the power to authorise exceptional funding for advocacy and to waive the financial eligibility limits.
These changes will simplify the current arrangement and help to provide prompt access to legal representation for the families of the deceased in those exceptional inquests where Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires it.
Copies of the amended authorisation and amendment regulations have been laid in the Libraries of both Houses.