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London Bridge attack: Victim’s partner calls for legal aid

James Hopper

The families of victims killed in terror attacks should receive legal aid, the partner of a nurse who died in the London Bridge attack has said.

Kirsty Boden was stabbed when she went to help restaurant waiter Alexandre Pigeard in the June 2017 attack.

Her partner, James Hodder, is petitioning for legal aid for families – ahead of the start of the inquests into the Manchester Arena bombing.

The government has said representation was “not necessary in all cases”.

But Mr Hodder, 32, told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme it was in the public interest for families to have it.

He said his lawyers raised important questions about the attack – including why vehicle-proof barriers were not in place on London Bridge.

“It is through your barrister, your QC that the right questions are asked,” he said.

“It’s in the public interest that you are given legal representation so you can engage with the process.”

He launched his petition after the conclusion of the London Bridge attack inquests and ahead of the start of the inquest into the 22 May 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, which killed 22 people.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Kirsty Boden, an off-duty nurse, was stabbed to death after she went to help a victim

A Ministry of Justice spokesman previously said its review of inquests found they were not about apportioning blame, but establishing the truth and learning lessons – meaning an inquest was a fact-finding, not adversarial, exercise.

So, they said, legal representation was not necessary in all cases, but the government was improving awareness of the availability of legal aid to support families.

‘Lawyer-fest’

Miss Boden was killed when she went to help waiter Alexandre Pigeard, who lay dying. She was dubbed the “angel of London Bridge” in the aftermath of the attack.

Mr Hodder called the government’s position on funding families at inquests “a pathetic excuse” – arguing other parties involved had legal representation.

“The home secretary had three QCs representing himself and his office,” he told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

“At least one of the killer’s families also got legal aid. Everyone’s got lawyers. It’s a lawyer-fest.”

Mr Hodder said he and his family spent “hundreds of thousands of pounds” on legal representation and he would have been left bankrupt had his lawyers not decided to waive some of their fees.

A petition calling on the government to provide legal aid to all families at inquests into terror attacks had gained more than 250,000 signatures up until Tuesday.

The Law Society for England and Wales has previously criticised the assumption that families do not need representation at inquests, while state bodies do.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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