Access to justice for suicide bereaved families and whānau.
The legal system is stacked against bereaved families and whānau.
Currently our family is facing a 5-7 working day inquest into Ross Taylor’s cause of death and the circumstances leading up to it more than six years after he died. Legal fees for this alone would cripple most families. There is also the ongoing legal legwork that needs to be completed to a professional standard before the inquest and most families are unable to do this without legal counsel. Should we decide to represent ourselves we would most certainly be at a disadvantage and most likely lose our case as we face the SDHB and psychiatrist’s Barristers who are well skilled in this area. DHBs have unlimited access to public funding for the best legal teams and experts. We do not qualify for legal aid.
At a time when they are grieving and at their most vulnerable, families face complex and demanding funding application processes. Some are lucky to get legal aid, but many do not and face the legal system without support or face paying large sums towards legal costs, alongside often enduring lengthy delays which cause distress. Some are forced to represent themselves while others simply give up as it is just too hard. Whether it is the death of a child in a mental health setting, the self-inflicted death of a prisoner, or a death as a result of neglectful state services, families experience a profound, yet unnecessary, injustice.
This unfair balance is the most significant injustice in the coronial system. Funding reform is urgently needed and we are calling for change.
What we are calling for:
1. The ministry of Justice needs to appoint more coroners so that the backlog can be cleared and so that families and whānau do not have to wait in excess of two years for coroner’s inquests or hearings on papers. Some families and whānau are waiting for more than 6 years. It is traumatising to wait that long without any support offered.
2. The ministry of Justice needs to introduce free and fair legal representation for all suicide bereaved families and whānau to ensure a level playing field at inquests and other investigations such as HRRT and HDC.
3. Automatic non means tested legal funding to families for specialist legal representation and expert witnesses immediately following a state related death to cover preparation and representation at the inquest and other legal processes.
4. Funding equivalent to that enjoyed by state bodies/public authorities and corporate bodies represented.
Please sign this petition and share widely for justice for all families and whānau who are bereaved by suicide.
Corinda Taylor (Chair - Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust)