A letter to the Ministry of Justice

Dear Ministry of Justice,

I’m writing because I’m pretty concerned about this statement you issued to BBC Radio Oxford a couple of weeks ago when asked why there was no legal aid for families to cover representation at inquests:

An inquest is aimed at helping families find out the circumstances behind the death of their loved one. Lawyers are not usually required as the hearings are specifically designed so people without legal knowledge can easily participate and understand what is happening.The coroner is there to investigate the death and can put questions on behalf of the family during proceedings.

This has a touch of the In the Night Garden about it. Naive, meaningless fluff. You present a version of the inquest coated with parma violets, butterscotch and cream soda. Devoid of context. You suggest that families put their trust in the coroner. Yes. Maybe. But they should also be aware that other interested parties (such as the NHS, the prison service, police, local authority) may well turn up mob handed with barristers and the like. Determined to close down questions and limit the investigatory process.

And it ain’t just about what happens at ‘the inquest’. The inquest is a process not an event that happens within a set space at a particular time, as I’m sure you know. It’s a process that involves evidence gathering and submissions. Without legal representation, how can families be sure that the questions they want answered are going to be asked? I ain’t being funny, but coroners are only human and can’t go through the mountains of paperwork associated with a particular death in the level of detail necessary. And a family who are experiencing the gut wrenching and devastating despair associated with bereavement aren’t best placed to (and shouldn’t have to) trawl through records and documents.

If, as you also suggest, the inquest is inquisitorial and not adversarial, why have Sloven Health been arguing for the narrowing of our son’s inquest to one with no jury and no Article 2 engagement? In your sunshine version surely the Slovens would be there cheering on in the sidelines for an inquest best placed to answer questions? With openness, candour and transparency. Not fighting the toss on these points. With spurious, insensitive and offensive arguments that include death by drowning is neither unnatural or non-violent.

Their choice of barrister, Gerard Boyle, also speaks to a fairly weighty adversarial inclination:

Gerry is in huge demand by the police and medical defence organisations to appear at Article 2 inquests? In huge demand?? How does this fit with your bland statement that families need no legal representation? It makes no sense at all. You must be completely distanced from the reality of the process, or worse.

I don’t know how to convey to you how we felt on the morning of LB’s pre-inquest review meeting. Back in November. When, three hours before the meeting, we found out who was representing the Trust. Such a blatant sign of their determination to fight. To fight about the circumstances of the death of our son they’d previously accepted was preventable. I really don’t know how an NHS Trust can possibly defend the death of a patient with epilepsy in the bath but that’s clearly not stopping them. I’m just relieved we have a legal team that shine a fierce light on human rights issues. A team drenched in integrity. And no whiff of parma violet pong.

Advising families they don’t need legal representation at inquests is simply wrong. Each situation is different. And clearly in some contexts legal representation is a necessity. I can’t imagine what it’s like to end up with an unsatisfactory inquest outcome. Other than making the worst thing you could ever imagine so much worse. This is unforgivable. And who funds this representation needs examination and reform. It isn’t fair that families have to pay.

It strikes me it might be helpful to send a few of your bods out to attend some inquests involving deaths in NHS Trusts. To get an idea of how it works in practice. Our next pre-inquest review meeting is on January 13th in Oxford if that’s any help.



10 thoughts on “A letter to the Ministry of Justice

  1. You have great letter writing skills Sara, please could you also pen a letter to the MoJ asking why they make it so darn impossible to get people on restrictive sections of the Mental Health Act like s37/41 out of Hospitals when if they enquired more into the details/reasons for the initial Court judgements (which often come about through catalogues of poor care, lack of support & preventable crisis) & listened & believed in people being able to live in their communities again with the right thought through support instead of listening so intently to the present encarcerating Providers Psychiatrists & experts telling them how bad a person still is they might be part of the solution and not the problem…..just saying #JusticeforLB

    • When private corps can claim £4,500 per week, for each person detained under the mental health act , there is not much hope.

      The head of NHS direct, suggested cash incentives to force the release of all the autistics,, detained in hospitals,mainly run privately for huge profits.

      So much for ‘do no harm’….i

        • Potentially, all the autistics.

          Someone sent me a youtube video of all those with as he put it ‘hidden disabilities’ ie learning disabled, whatever that means, who were being assessed as incapable under the MCA.

          tHE PROBLEM IS THE POWER given to the LA under the MCA, it is far greater than the NHS under MHA.

          tHIS MEANS all is uncertain, and you are like J. NicOLSON in ‘One flew over cuckoos nest’ ir is then impossible to show you are not incapable, if they systemically say you are. There is no system that allows you to do this, under Act.

          So 2+2 can make 5, as they have the power. That is why everyone is silent..

          They are quite rightly frightened they will be targeted or their children

          I have been told I have a persistent cough and diabetes, and even been refered to a hospital for a diabetes sight test. When I have neither . Ive bought my own tests as as the GPs they are negative. They must and need to show parental incapacity on paper for the court. See my blog post My supposed illhealth

          The truth is irrelevant. This Act and the system gives them the power to control most peoples lives, systemically.

          iF you have a carers assessment for support this will involve a psychological assessment, and the assessors are acting for LA, and risk future work, if they do not find some disorder, which is easy as they have 300 to choose from. Armed with that capacity could be used even to remove your decision to agree to medication.

          MCA is a means of enforcing, whatever service they want and control . This is why in 2007 they could not fully implement it as HL would not pass it it is only 2 years ago this was achieved.

  2. We are living in a totalitarian state. Which must, and, will be obeyed.

    It wants to impose an inquisitorial system of justice upon us, the justification being, that the state only acts in our own good.

    This has all but be achieved in this single government.

    The solicitor profession is now destroyed, replaced by large corporate legal services that work on a commercially aware basis.

    Except for the few in the know, who can afford it the law cannot be even attempted to be enforced

    Removal of legal aid, means the majority cannot even find out what their rights are, let alone enforce them.

    In criminal proceedings, this means that all, will eventually be forced to be represented by the state defender system, as barristers and solicitors will be unable to survive independently.
    The jury will soon go, and we will have one state expert.

    Already, the appointment of judges is dangerously political.

    In civil claims, an individual, cannot sue, as they risk paying big corporations legal fees, and the courts.

    Court fees are ever increasing, and soon to be privatised.

    Once, coroners, did not have to be legally qualified, just medically, now it is the other way around.

    All this is in breach of the rule of law, and the separation of powers, which both underpin democracy, freedom and justice.

    In other words, the only people, who can enforce the law are the ‘us’ not the ‘them’

    As we can rely on justice from the ‘us’,.

  3. 100% adversarial every time, families participating without legal representation are lambs to the slaughter. Human rights are not upheld by the NHS. Amazing letter.

  4. Pingback: British (in)justice and Simon Hughes | mydaftlife

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.