Legal Aid for Terror Attack Families

EDITORIAL

The Squires are not fond of petitions. Most often – like the petition arranged by Continuity Remain for Britain to stay in the EU – they are abused and skewed. Recently Sir Roger Scruton perhaps chose his words about the Chinese less carefully than he should have but his words on petitions were spot on when he said “tempted by a ‘one-click’ response to a complex question, people can be persuaded to add their voice to campaigns designed to bypass argument in the interest of a foregone conclusion. Invariably the conclusion has the beauty and simplicity of a final solution to some problem that affects us all.”

However, every now and again, a petition emerges which merits a signature. One such petition is that started by James Hodder two days ago which has already collected 170,000 signatures. James is the partner of the late Kirsty Boden who was killed by Islamist terrorists in the London Bridge Terror attack on the 3rd of June 2017. James’ petition calls for legal aid for families of victims of terror attacks so they can face often complex coroner inquests with legal advisers present, just as the other institutions at the inquests have legal representation paid from the public purse.

In James’ own words, “the denial of funding is especially shocking considering every other public authority at this inquest (the Home Office, police, MI5, ambulance service etc.) had some of the UK’s best barristers and solicitors representing them at the expense of the taxpayer. The families of the attackers were represented.  Put simply, this is not a level playing field.”

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Losing one’s loved one is hard enough. To lose them because of violence perpetrated by crazed terrorists is especially hard and leaves numerous questions – it is important that victims’ families and loved ones get the chance to properly scrutinise and understand coroner data and conclusions. One of the Squires knows the family of a Bali bomb victim well and has seen the strife a terror attack can cause those left behind – the prospect of facing coroners’ courts abroad is extremely complex and burdensome and he feels here in Britain we should be setting the gold standard for assisting such families and loved ones.

Says James: “It is impossible for families to properly engage in the process. An inquest includes examination of huge volumes of complex material, debates on matters of law, and consideration of significant public interest issues; including the role of the government and security services in keeping the public safe, the response of the emergency services and physical security measures such as barriers in public places.”

Imagine a 9/11 happening in the UK with thousands of victims. Perhaps the sheer potential scale of a terrorist attack can make granting legal aid to families of victims seem economically unfeasible. However in such cases there will be the economy of scale of legal aid for the group rather than individual families. No other valid objections exist.

So we are with James on this petition and CSM staff have all signed it. James is right to point out that “we face continued threats from terrorists, and it is clearly in the public interest that they are examined by legally trained professionals”.

James Hodder’s petition can be found here. Please sign it. Having the Ministry of Justice’s policies on this matter changed will be a step in the right direction and do honour to the memory of good people like Kirsty Boden who were innocent victims of evil – perhaps an unnecessary evil – that those left behind need to fully understand. The lives of those left behind like James have already been devastated by the actions of terrorists and they deserve to be supported as they navigate the complexities of our legal system.