Grieving families must be fully aware of legal rights

Bereaved families must be made aware that they are entitled to legal help at inquests, lawyers warn.

Not-for-profit campaign group the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) says that grieving families are not always aware of their rights, and that a recently published guide to the coroner's system does not make them clear enough.

"Bereaved people, already distressed and completely unfamiliar with the coroner system, need to know exactly what their options are," said APIL president Matthew Stockwell.

Matthew said the Government's Guide to coroner services has good intentions, but risks allowing vulnerable grieving families to face the court system alone, when those implicated in the deaths of their relatives may well have the benefit of legal help.

"If someone was tragically killed at work, for example, it's a safe bet that any large company or public body he may have worked for would have help and representation at the inquest," he explained. "Yet mourning members of the public all too often find themselves unable to follow the proceedings, or effectively relay their loss to the court".