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Categorized | Legal Aid

Legal aid: indefensible cuts

Legal aid: indefensible cuts

This was the heading of the third leader of the ‘Observer’ on Sunday, and much of what follows comes from that leader.

In 2012, 15 year old Alex Kelly hanged himself. He was serving a 10-month sentence in a young offender institution, for burglary and theft from a vehicle. In a terrifyingly short and brutish life, at age six he had been taken into care having been repeatedly raped by a relative (not his father), leaving him profoundly emotionally damaged. The serious case review into his death found failings by a number of professionals.

An inquest expected later this year will examine “allegations of systemic failure of the state.” The prison, prison healthcare provider and two local authorities will have legal representation paid out of the public purse. Alex’s father has been refused legal aid. How can this be right or fair? Where is the justice? And all to save the equivalent of small change in the trouser pocket of state finances.

Inquest is a small charitable organisation that provides service to bereaved people, lawyers, other advice and support agencies, the media, MPs and the wider public on contentious deaths and their investigation. Their casework priorities are deaths in custody – police, prison, immigration detention and deaths of detained patients. The cuts to legal aid in inquests which removes proper public scrutiny of custodial institutions means they will be very busy. Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest, said “This leaves wrongdoing unchallenged, prevents learning and impedes changes to dangerous practices.”

Bhatt Murphy, the solicitors representing Alex’s father, have made a formal complaint at a pattern of “poor decision-making” by the Legal Aid Agency. As the ‘Observer’ concludes: “In the name of justice, the decision for Alex’s family must be reversed and an important precedent set.” Over to you Mr Grayling.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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