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
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?