Families of victims of the London Bridge terror attack have been refused legal aid during the inquest as it is ‘not in the public interest’
- MPs condemned it as an ‘insult’ as families’ lawyers said legal aid was denied
- Government agencies use public funds for expensive court cases, lawyers said
- Lawyers acting pro bono for families have called on ministers to rethink policy
- It says state bodies can have tax-payer funded legal teams while victims’ must represent themselves in court or self-fund
Grieving relatives of victims of the London Bridge terror attack have been told they will not receive legal aid as it is not in the public interest.
MPs have condemned the move as an ‘insult’ as lawyers for the families of the eight victims said their legal aid applications have been denied, The Times reports.
Government agencies have used public funds to hire highly-skilled and expensive legal teams to represent their interests in court, the families’ lawyers added.
Grieving relatives of victims of the London Bridge terror attack have been told they will not receive legal aid as it is not in the public interest. Pictured: Julie and Mark Wallace, the parents of an Australian au pair Sara Zelenak who was killed in the attack
Lawyers acting pro bono for the families have called on ministers to rethink the current policy in which state bodies can have tax-payer funded legal teams while victims’ must represent themselves in court or self-fund.
More than 40 cross-party MPs have signed a motion demanding that the families of people killed in terrorist attacks are given non-means-tested funding.
Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne who tabled the motion, told The Times: ‘The Ministry of Justice’s approach to the matter is an insult to all those who have lost loved ones in tragedies such as these.
‘French citizens, for example, if caught up in terrorist attacks, are automatically entitled to state-funded legal representation in court proceedings..’ Under Ministry of Justice rules, legal aid is not deemed necessary at inquests as the proceedings are not confrontational, unlike court cases.
Only under exceptional circumstances can families apply for legal aid, where representation is necessary for effective investigation into the death.
Eight people were killed in the terrorist in incident and three of the assailants were shot dead by police. Lawyers acting pro bono for the families have called on ministers to rethink the current policy in which state bodies can have tax-payer funded legal teams while victims’ must represent themselves in court or self-fund. Pictured: People fleeing from the attack
Yasmin Waljee, senior counsel at Hogan Lovells, which is representing the families of six of the eight victims, said: ‘Their legal aid applications have been turned down on the basis that it would not be in the wider public interest.
‘The idea that the state believes families should handle a complex inquest of significant public interest without help is an extraordinary position to take.
‘These families are expected to represent themselves if firms do not step in and take on their cases pro bono.’ Hogan Lovells is planning to resubmit the requests for funding.
This comes just weeks after the Daily Mail revealed the families of the five victims of the Westminster attack still had not received a penny in legal aid.
The men, were among four who died near the courtyard of the Boro Bistro restaurant after the terror attack (pictured, people flee from the attack). More than 40 cross-party MPs have signed a motion demanding that the families of people killed in terrorist attacks are given non-means-tested funding
The Westminster families had their claim rejected because their terrorism experts were not on an approved legal-aid list. They are appealing against the decision.
Just three weeks before this, jihadi bride Shamima Begum was granted legal aid to fight the decision to remove her British citizenship.
Taxpayers could face a legal bill in the thousands to fund her fight to return to the UK from a refugee camp in Syria, but the terror victims are left without help.
John Frade, who lost his wife, Aysha in the Westminster attack, said he was forced to put down the value of his wife’s wedding ring to help fund proceedings.
Mr Frade, 43, said: ‘It was a very difficult time as I was trying to write a tribute to Aysha for the inquest and work out what questions I wanted answered about how she died.
‘The level of detail they were seeking was very intrusive and the process was emotionally sapping.’
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘Our thoughts remain with those who lost loved ones in the 2017 terror attacks and while our review of legal aid showed that legal representation is not necessary for bereaved families at the vast majority of inquests, we are making a number of changes to ensure there’s more support for them.’
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