Exclusive: Family of royal hoax suicide nurse Jacintha Saldanha denied legal aid for inquest into 'suicide' after Duchess of Cambridge phone call

 

The family of the nurse who apparently took her own life after answering the Duchess of Cambridge hoax call has been denied legal aid for her inquest, The Independent can disclose.

Relatives of Jacintha Saldanha, who will struggle to meet the legal bills, fear the move will prevent them finding out the circumstances surrounding her death.

They need to find thousands of pounds to have any legal representation at the inquest. Without a lawyer, they fear they will struggle to challenge hospital chiefs on the circumstances of Mrs Saldanha being put on reception duty to answer calls from the media on the night the Duchess was admitted.

“The family is of the view they are being deprived their only opportunity to be assisted in a one-day or half-day hearing – the only hearing into what was a very tragic case,” their lawyer John Cooper, QC, who has been working pro bono up to this point, told The Independent.

“It is not just the inquest hearing they need representation for, the family feels they also need to ask if there has been adequate disclosure. It is  he Coroner’s decision who to call; to say the Coroner can act as the representative for the family is like saying she is advocate and judge in her own court; the family will not be able to say ‘you should have called someone else to the stand’.

“The Saldanha family believe the case will require some pressing questions of the hospital which the Coroner cannot ask.”

Ms Saldanha, who was 46 when she died, left husband Benedict Barboza, 49, son Junal, 17, and daughter Lisha, 14.

Bereaved families are only granted legal aid for inquests in special circumstances, if there is deemed to be a wider public interest or if a relative is required to give evidence.

Although they are automatically made interested parties and, as such, can intervene in the proceedings by themselves, the grieving Saldanha family would face the prospect of having to go head-to-head with experienced lawyers hired by this hospital.

They would also have to negotiate the maze of rules which govern Coroner’s courts without legal help.

“The family will be facing well-equipped parties. It is argued that families don’t need legal representation in Coroner’s courts because they are not adversarial, but that ignores the fact that other parties are represented because they can afford it,” said Mr Cooper QC.

He added: “The family believe there are questions to be asked about the hospital protocols that led to Mrs Saldanha being put in that job on that night.

“They feel this will be the only opportunity they will have to find out exactly what happened to their relative. They say they want to find out the relevant surrounding relevant circumstances which led to her death. Simply saying she committed suicide is not the end of the story;  they say they want to know the rest of it.”

A Legal Services Commission spokesman said: “Inquests are not adversarial as the Coroner is concerned with establishing the facts behind a death.

“There is the ability for a family or those connected with a deceased to make submissions or put questions to the Coroner, but funding for advocacy at inquest is only granted on an exceptional basis as it is not covered by the usual scope of legal aid.

“Any funding decision also has to account for an applicant’s financial means, and also those of the immediate family. There is a right of appeal if an application for funding is refused.”

Ms Saldanha was found dead by colleagues after answering a joke call from two Australian DJs while the Duchess of Cambridge was in the hospital’s care. Although she was a nurse, she was working on the reception at the King Edward VII Hospital when the call came in.

According to evidence given by Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Inspector James Harman at Westminster Coroner’s Court, Mrs Saldanha left three notes before she died.

Two of these were in the room where she was found hanging, while a third was found among her personal possessions, police said.

The inquest into her death is being heard by Dr Fiona Wilcox and was adjourned to 26 March.

A spokesman for the King Edward VII Hospital refused to comment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent