Legal aid for coroners' inquests. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Inquests held into deaths perform important functions, not only in determining the facts relevant to the death, but also in investigating and making recommendations on matters of public safety. Coronial legislation allows a number of parties to appear at inquests but a right of appearance without the possibility of legal representation is an illusory right. There are persuasive arguments for allocating funding for grants of legal aid to persons appearing at inquests and particularly to families. However, the demands on public legal aid funds are overwhelming and there are many competing needs. Historically, legal aid has not been available at inquests. Justifications for this are considered and whether government legal aid funding for advice and representation should be available to individuals involved in coroners' inquests and in what circumstances. The nature of the inquest process, indications of need for legal assistance, the level of assistance currently provided, defining what is the "public interest" for legal aid purposes in an inquest and the detriment suffered by individuals or the community if assistance is not available, are examined.

publication date

  • February 1, 2008