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Bristol Uni law students to help bereaved families under new inquest service

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Pro bono clinic hopes to ‘plug the gap’ left by legal aid

The University of Bristol’s student-led law clinic will offer bereaved families free legal help at inquests under a new initiative believed to be the first of its kind.

The clinic’s new dedicated inquest team, currently made up of seven students, will offer bereaved families free legal advice and even representation in coroner’s courts. Separate from the clinic’s general legal offerings, the specialised pro bono pack will focus only on inquests, which are typically document-heavy and long-running.

Although the service will not officially roll out until the new academic year, the team has already begun assisting bereaved families in the South West and welcomes those from further afield to get in touch. According to the team’s supervisor and inquest specialist Sumayyah Malna, the service is like no other. Speaking to Legal Cheek, the qualified solicitor explained:

“As far as we are aware, we are the only university law clinic to offer a dedicated inquest team, supervised by a solicitor with specialist inquest experience. Other law clinics may well take on the odd ad hoc inquest, but we do not believe there are any others offering a dedicated service as we are.”

Bereaved families are not automatically entitled to legal aid at inquests, leaving many to fend for themselves against well-funded legal teams acting for state bodies or large corporations.

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Before joining Bristol’s law clinic, Malna, who trained at Irwin Mitchell before practising medical law at Bevan Brittan, saw first hand the vulnerability of bereaved families without legal support. “In my experience families often struggle to obtain legal representation for inquests, whether due to not qualifying for legal aid (which is extremely limited for inquests), being unable to afford a solicitor, or being unable to locate a solicitor with the necessary expertise,” she said.

Malna recalled seeing Bristol’s new service as a way to “plug the gap” for bereaved families:

“Joining the law clinic presented as a prime opportunity to try and plug the gap for bereaved families, and offer them support throughout what can be a difficult and prolonged legal process, where other organisations are often armed with solicitors and barristers leading to potential power imbalances in court.”

Matt Bennett, who currently undertakes a masters degree in law and is taking part in the project, believes that inquests is an area of law where students can have a “real impact”. He told us: “More often than not, the clients are families frustrated by the inquest process, which can seem confusing without legal training. All they want are answers, and if you can help deliver that, it can bring them the closure they need and deserve.”

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19 Comments

Anonymous

They don’t care. Just give ‘em internships at battery-farm corporate law firms; it’ll be far more successful.

Anonymous

Not every law student is desperate to become a corporate shill like some commenters on here

18 year old student

“Er….um….

I’m sorry for your loss…

I had a hamster that died once so I know how you feel? [Upward inflection]”

Anonymous

More like “I’m sorry for your loss. I go to Bristol university so I too am often on the brink of suicide”

Anonymous

While a good initiative there is a risk for conflict of interest as Uni of Bristol has an extremely high suicide rate which is terribly sad and results in a number of inquests.

Anonymous

This is a noble and highly valuable initiative, especially given recent events at Bristol.

But the real story here is the disastrous decimation of legal aid funding in the UK, which is leading to the utter breakdown of the rule of law and unequal access to justice. Osborne and the justice ministers who oversaw this ought to hang their heads in shame.

Anonymous

The real problems are that the lower classes are refusing to pay enough tax and that the old are consuming more and more state resources while avoiding using their substantial wealth to fund their own needs.

Anonymous

Wow. Just wow

Anonymous

Take the last 20 years. Look at the income tax burden falling in the top 50% of earners , the top 10% of earners and the top 1% of earners. Look at the increasing spending on social and health care for the retired and loom at the increase in wealth of the retired compared to workers. Then you can say “wow” when you are the original comment was spot on.

Anonymous

There’s a disgusting obese old biddy who zooms around at breakneck speed on her obesity scooter while living in a million who’d council house. She has multiple inherited properties but has been on benefits her entire life.
So help me god, if I smell the stench of her shit-encrusted mound of flesh one more time…

Anonymous

Pics or it didn’t happen:

Anonymous

Yeah it’s good hope the other law schools follow

Erin Norman

Given the number of deaths in police custody this is a great idea.

Anonymous

There are about 20 deaths a year in custody, the vast majority of which are attributable to drink or drug abuse, injuries sustained in the course of criminal activity, lawful consequences of resisting arrest or suicide.

Anonymous

Leftists don’t like the facts.

Anonymous

It is indeed a massive bereavement when you’re offspring go to Bristol ‘university’.
I’d probably ‘commit’ ‘suicide’

Stef

Imagine their own disappointment when their parents can’t distinguish ‘you’re’ from ‘your’.

Anonymous

Imagine you’re parents’ and children’s and siblings’ disappointment when I rail you anally while you squeak about grammar like Theon Greyjoy during his nullification

XD

1. LLMMAAO BRISTOL

2. IMAGINE PAYING FOR AN LLM AT BRISTOLLL

3. BET ALL THE STUDENTS GONNA BE LIKE ‘LOL SOZ FOR LOSS NOW LEMME GET BACK TO MY CONTRACT TEXTBOUK’

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