Last week I made a speech in Parliament calling on the Government to act on ensuring that families are given legal representation after they lose a loved one in a state-related death, writes Gloria De Piero MP.
Dealing with the death of a loved one is devastating and difficult at any time.
The situation is made even worse when families are having to find out how and why their relative died through the inquest process – and they have no legal representation for this.
Families whose relative has died in hospital, in custody, while detained under the mental health act or in an accident at work are not entitled to legal aid for their inquests.
This means that bereaved families have to act as lawyers, going up against fully-qualified barristers and solicitors.
Or they end up desperately trying to afford crippling legal fees they never expected to pay.
It is David v Goliath and it is grossly unfair.
Families need state support at this time and are being denied it.
Granting legal aid is therefore an urgent and ongoing issue for everyone in this country.
The need for better state-funded legal support for bereaved families at inquests has been a central recommendation of several major reviews in recent years.
All have called for a major improvement to funding for bereaved families at inquests to prevent future miscarriages of justice.
One of the most high profile cases of this gaping injustice is the Hills-borough disaster inquest.
A report on this case made 25 recommendations that would ensure that the pain and suffering of Hillsborough families is not repeated.
One of these was that non-means tested, publicly-funded legal representation be available for bereaved families at inquests at which public bodies are represented.
How else could families pursue their basic rights of seeking truth and justice?
The Government needs to commit to giving automatic, non-means tested legal aid funding to families, to allow them to seek specialist legal representation following a state-related death.