Long list of legal aid controversies

Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of legal aid, introduced on July 30 1949 to help pay for representation in court proceeding.

Legal aid provision has prompted controversy in several high-profile court cases and inquests in recent years including:

– The Hillsborough disaster

The Home Office spent £63.6 million on legal costs on the two-year inquest into the deaths of 96 fans during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989, according to Government figures.

The hearing was the longest running in British legal history and concluded the fans were unlawfully killed.

Hillsborough disaster charges
The victims of the Hillsborough disaster

At the time, MP for Liverpool Walton Steve Rotheram said the taxpayer would have been spared the cost if there had been sufficient legal funding and the right verdict reached at the original inquest in 1990.

– London Bridge terror attack 

Relatives of victims called on the Government to change its policy after the “shocking” refusal to fund lawyers during the inquest into the deaths of eight people on June 3 2017.

James Hodder, the partner of nurse Kirsty Boden, 28, who was stabbed to death outside a restaurant as she went to help a waiter, said there should be an automatic right for the families of those killed in terrorist attacks to be legally represented.

Incident at London Bridge
The victims of the London Bridge terrorist attack 

He hit out at what he said was the unfairness of the system, pointing out every public authority at the inquest was legally represented at the expense of the taxpayer. The families of the attackers also had legal representation.

The inquest heard counter-terrorism police and MI5 had investigated ringleader Khuram Butt but failed to identify the danger he posed.

– Birmingham pub bombing

A botched IRA warning call led to the deaths of 21 people unlawfully killed in the 1974 blast, an inquest which concluded in April found.

Birmingham pub bombings inquest
The victims of the Birmingham Pub bombing 

A month later The Telegraph reported the families would receive less in legal aid for their four-decade fight for justice than the coroner spent on a PR team, according to figures obtained through freedom of information requests.

– Shoreham Airshow crash 

Families of the 11 men who died when a vintage jet crashed on to the A27 in West Sussex in 2015 during an airshow display have also battled to get legal aid funding after their original applications were refused.

State responsibility over the crash – the role of industry watchdog the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) among others – will be considered at the inquest, which is expected to take place early next year.

Shoreham Airshow crash
Ten of the 11 victims of the Shoreham Airshow crash

The decision to refuse funding for the families was branded “absurd”, with MPs and campaigners calling for it to be overturned. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the Legal Aid Agency is reviewing the decision.

– Connor Sparrowhawk

The parents of an epileptic teenager who drowned in a bath after neglect at a care unit in Oxford in 2013 campaigned for legal aid to ensure fair inquests, saying they were reliant on charity support and lawyers working pro-bono.

Southern Health scandal
Connor Sparrowhawk (Family handout/PA)

They later learned the health trust responsible would be fined £2 million for failing in its duty towards patients.

Ellie Butler

The six-year-old was placed in the care of her grandparents as a baby after her father, Ben Butler, was accused of shaking her but then returned to the care of him and her mother in 2012 after a High Court ruling.

She was battered to death the following year.

Butler was convicted of Ellie’s murder in June 2016 and jailed for a minimum of 23 years. Her mother Jennie Gray was handed a 42-month prison sentence after being found guilty of child cruelty and admitting perverting the course of justice.

Ellie Butler inquest
Ellie Butler (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Her grandparents reportedly spent their life savings in the custody battle while her parents were said to have been granted nearly 15 years of legal aid totalling more than £1.5 million.

– Kenneth Noye

The road rage killer is said to have racked up more than £100,000 in legal aid costs during his time in prison.

The 72-year-old was released from prison in June after serving nearly 20 years for stabbing 21-year-old Stephen Cameron to death on an M25 slip road in Kent in 1996.

Kenneth Noye jail release
Road rage killer Kenneth Noye

He spent £105,454 of taxpayers’ money on appeals, judicial reviews and lawyers’ bills from 2001, according to freedom of information figures obtained by The Sun on Sunday.

– John Worboys

The black cab rapist received more than £166,000 in legal aid since his arrest in 2007, the MailOnline reported after obtaining freedom of information figures.

John Worboys court case
 John Worboys

The 62-year-old stripper and adult film star-turned-taxi driver was jailed indefinitely for the public protection with a minimum of eight years for sex attacks on 12 women in 2009. He has since admitted more offences and is thought to have been responsible for 100 attacks in total.

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