The High Court in the case of R (Joanna Letts) -v- Lord Chancellor (February 2015) has thrown the ‘Lord Chancellor’s Exceptional Funding Guidance (Inquests)’ into jeopardy by ruling it unlawful.

Mrs Letts brought the successful judicial review to challenge the decision of the Legal Aid Agency not to grant her funding for representation at the inquest concerning the death of her brother, who was mentally unwell and sadly committed suicide shortly after leaving hospital.

Mr Justice Green stated that the threshold for legal aid at inquests was too high for families to gain representation and effectively participate in inquest proceedings. In Mrs Letts’ case, five other parties at the inquest were to be legally represented. However, Mrs Letts’ application for funding was refused on the basis that Article 2 (Right to Life) was not engaged.

The ruling will potentially lead to new guidance being developed and a lowering of the eligibility criteria for legal aid funding at inquests. 

For healthcare organisations, the ruling could mean more families obtaining legal representation at inquests making proceedings potentially more complex and costly.