Guidance on the availability of legal aid for inquests was unlawful


Re: R (Letts) v The Lord Chancellor [2015] EWHC 402 (Admin)

The claimant’s brother committed suicide and this case concerned the claimant’s attempts to obtain legal aid for representation at the inquest. The claimant had granted been legal aid and this case proceeded to examine whether the defendant’s guidance on when to grant legal aid was lawful.

Held: the guidance given by the defendant was materially in error.

The defendant’s guidance says that legal aid only ought to be granted for an inquest when there has been an arguable breach of ECHR, art 2. The Court, however, concluded that this guidance is too narrow. The Court held that there are also a category of cases there was a duty to grant legal aid even though there no suggestion that the state breached ECHR, art 2.

Chris Buttler, Phillippa Kaufmann QC and Jessica Simor QC were involved in this case.