An amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill aimed at getting parity of representation for families at inquests failed in the House of Commons on 13th June.

At the end of the debate Mr Andy Burnham MP said - "It is disappointing that the Government were not even able to accept the principle that we should have equal funding. It would have been a step forward if they had been able to do so. I understand that they are asking Bishop James Jones to look at these matters, but of course, this issue goes much broader than Hillsborough. It is about fairness in our criminal justice system, and I believe that the Government are missing an opportunity by not acting on it quickly. Quite frankly, it is obscene for police forces to continue to spend large amounts of money on hiring aggressive lawyers to challenge families in the way that they do at inquests. This scandal should not be allowed to continue, and we in the Opposition will continue to fight against it until there is real change.​"

The full debate is HERE and the voting for individual members is HERE.   The new clause 63 (now defeated) is set out below.  It would have made funding for legal representation dependent on a recommendation by the Police and Crime Commissioner for the Police Force under investigation.  This would hardly have been seen as satisfactory.

Lack of legal representation at most inquests is a very serious issue for families particularly when a public authority is amply represented. 

The Policing and Crime Bill has now gone to the House of Lords where I hope that this matter will be revisited but with a view to providing funding for legal representation at inquests where ANY public authority is represented by lawyers.

New clause 63—Police and Crime Commissioners: parity of funding between police and families at inquests—
“(1) A police and crime commissioner has the duties set out in this section when the police force they are responsible for is a Properly Interested Person for the purposes of—
(a) an inquest into the death of a member of an individual’s family, or
(b) an inquest into the deaths of members of a group of families,
under the Coroners Act 1988.
(2) The police and crime commissioner must make recommendations to the Secretary of State as to whether the individual’s family or the group of families at the inquest require financial support to ensure parity of legal representation between parties to the inquest.
(3) If a police and crime commissioner makes a recommendation under subsection (2) then the Secretary of State must provide financial assistance to the individual’s family or the group of families to ensure parity of funding between families and the police.
(4) The individual’s family or the group of families may use funding authorised under this section solely for the purpose of funding legal representation at the inquest.”

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