You can use this draft text to contact you MP about the Early Day Motion for state funding for inquests. Feel free to amend it! Please make sure you add your name and postcode at the bottom, as MPs are only required to respond to their own constituents.
You can find your MP's details here.
Dear [INSERT NAME]
Access to justice for bereaved families
I am your constituent and a member of Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL). I am writing following an Early Day Motion ('EDM') laid by Ellie Reeves MP on 13 November 2017 which calls for the Government to provide state funded legal representation for bereaved families at inquests.
Under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, legal aid is currently only available to bereaved families if the death involved a state agent (and therefore Article 2 ECHR, the right to life, may be engaged) or if the inquest is of “wider public interest.” Even if these criteria are met, families must provide extensive evidence of their financial means. This can be an intrusive and stressful experience, at a time when they are grieving the loss of a loved one.
Despite this, where state agents such as the police or NHS trusts are recognised as Interested Parties in an inquest, they are almost always represented by lawyers at the inquest, the cost of which is met by the taxpayer.
The EDM welcomes the findings of the final report of the Bach Commission on Access to Justice, the Hillsborough review by Bishop James Jones and the Angiolini review on deaths in police custody. Each of these reports called for families to receive free, non-means tested state funded legal representation where the state is funding representation for one or more public authorities.
One family, commenting on the means-testing process, told the Angiolini review: 'They delved into our private lives. We felt we were being investigated, but we are the victims here.' By contrast, Angiolini found that 'all of the various branches of the state will attend inquests bristling with senior barristers and solicitors to represent them and ultimately, all paid for by the taxpayer'.
As a member of YLAL, I believe that the provision of publicly funded advice and representation to bereaved families in these circumstances is essential to ensuring access to justice, equality of arms and upholding the rule of law.
I therefore ask you, as my MP, to support access to justice for bereaved families by signing EDM 498.
As your constituent, I would be grateful to hear your views on legal aid, in particular given the recent announcement of the Government’s review of legal aid cuts.
I look forward to hearing from you.
[ADDRESS AND POSTCODE]