“Naive” Ministry of Justice criticised over legal representation mismatch in official inquests

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The Ministry of Justice has been naive in not granting families a level playing field when trying to gain justice for the loss of loved ones in official inquests, according to Hilary Meredith.

The CEO of Hilary Meredith Solicitors has said that justice for the 96 who died at Hillsborough would have been achieved a decade ago if the families had been allowed the same level of legal representation as the South Yorkshire Police. She also said that families who have lost loved ones serving in the armed forces are often under represented at inquests.

Meredith echoed the views of Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son at Hillsborough and yesterday called for a “level playing field” for bereaved families in legal fights against public bodies.

Aspinall told MPs on 11 May that it was a “disgrace” South Yorkshire Police was publicly-funded during the inquests but the families were not.

Meredith, who recently gave evidence at the Parliamentary Inquiry which led to the recommendation Ministry of Defence should lose its immunity from prosecution when there is a blatant disregard for life, said: “In these complex inquests, including military deaths in combat or overseas, it is a David versus Goliath battle.”

“I have represented military service personnel and their families since 1987 and have provided legal representation at hundreds of military inquests. Over the years these inquests have become more and more complex with not only military terminology to cope with but Human Right issues, narrative verdicts and incidents overseas with numerous witnesses and mountains of paperwork.

“The Ministry of Defence always employs legal representation funded by the public purse, yet the bereaved families are denied legal aid and legal fees for any legal assistance.

“In military Inquests the MoD will have their solicitors plus a QC and a junior barrister, yet there is no funding available for families. If there is no need for legal representation why does the establishment roll out a team of legal bit hitters?”

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Marek Handzel

Marek Handzel is the editor of Claims Magazine. Marek welcomes articles, letters, or feedback from readers and can be reached by emailing marek.handzel@barkerbrooks.co.uk