Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence


  Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What criteria they intend to use to assess applications for funding from the extra-statutory ex-gratia scheme established to provide representation for proceedings before coroners in exceptional inquests in Northern Ireland. [HL1445]

  The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I can advise the noble Lord that I will consider each application for funding from the extra-statutory scheme on its individual merits and in the round. In so doing I will have regard to:

    (a)  whether the issues raised in the application fall outside the scope of a coroner's inquest;

    (b)  whether the applicant would qualify financially for full civil legal aid in other circumstances;

    (c)  whether an effective investigation of the death by the state is needed, and whether the inquest is the only way to conduct it;

    (d)  whether the applicant has a sufficiently close relationship to the deceased to warrant funding;

    (e)  whether an alternative to public funding is available;

    (f)  whether the applicant needs representation in order to participate effectively in the inquest—for example, because there are unusually complex questions of law or fact, or evidential difficulties, or because of the level of representation of others who have an interest in or are involved in the inquest;

    (g)  whether there is a significant wider public interest in representation being provided;

    (h)  the views of the coroner, if expressed; and

    (i)  any other matters which appear to be relevant to the individual circumstances of the case.

  I am writing to interested parties to invite their views on the criteria.

  The consultation exercise for these criteria will conclude on 30 June 2001. In the meantime and until I reach a conclusion on the final criteria to be adopted, I will apply the criteria set out above to any applications for funding from the extra-statutory fund.

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