Recent legislation provides that a family member could receive free legal aid or advice at an inquest where it is in the public interest. Given the recent publicity regarding hospital deaths, this provision could become increasingly relevant.
Apply to the coroner to submit a request to the Legal Aid Board for legal aid or legal advice
Under the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013, a family member can apply to the coroner to submit a request to the Legal Aid Board for legal aid or legal advice in certain circumstances. This application must be made before the beginning of the inquest, unless the coroner permits otherwise.
The coroner can make a request if the continuance or recurrence of the circumstances of death would be prejudicial to the health or safety of the public. This could arguably apply to a death due to a systems failure in a hospital. There must also be a significant public interest in granting legal aid or advice.1 If legal aid or legal advice is granted by the Legal Aid Board, no further requests can be made by another family member.