High Court holds Lord Chancellors Guidance on Funding for Inquests to be unlawful


Joanna Letts sought legal aid to be represented at an inquest into her brother’s death, who committed suicide following his discharge from a psychiatric hospital. Joanna was refused legal aid and challenged that decision, together with the lawfulness of the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance on funding representation at inquests. The Legal Aid Agency conceded the claim, but the Lord Chancellor defended it. Green J held that the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance was unlawful because it permitted and encouraged unlawful decision-making by the Legal Aid Agency. The flaw was that the Guidance stated that an Article 2 investigation is only required if it is shown with evidence to be arguable that the state breached one of its substantive duties under Article 2; the Guidance failed to recognise that there were categories of case in which an Article 2 investigation was automatically required, irrespective of evidence of state breach. Phillippa Kaufmann QC and Chris Buttler were involved in this case. For coverage from the Guardian please click here.