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Family of Woman Whose Death Sparked Brixton Riots Granted Legal Aid

Friday 11h April 2014

Ministers have overturned a decision to block legal aid for the family of a woman accidentally shot by police in south London almost 30 years ago.

Cherry Groce

Cherry Groce was shot during an early morning raid by police looking for her son. The incident led to the Brixton riots.

Ms Groce was left paralysed from the waist down and spent the last 26 years of her life in a wheelchair. She passed away in April 2011.

An inquest into her death is due to be held this summer. Documents uncovered by Channel 4 News revealed that a pathologist for the family and one for the police both concluded there is was a causal link between the shooting and her death.

The Legal Aid Agency initially denied the family legal aid funding for representation at the inquest however, following a campaign by her relatives and Labour MP Chuka Umunna, the case was referred to ministers.

Legal aid is not normally granted for inquests as lawyers are not usually required - as the hearings are designed so people without legal knowledge can easily participate.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman has confirmed that ministers have decided to authorise funding in this case.

"We hope that this legal representation will help her family and those who knew Ms Groce find out more about the circumstances leading to her death," he said.

MP Chuka Umunna says he welcomes the decision. 

"I am grateful to him for making the right call in this case. All we were asking for was for there to be an equality of legal representation between the police and the family before the inquest. That wish has now been granted.

"I'd like to thank all those who have backed the family's campaign but the battle for justice is not over. I would ask all those who've supported the campaign to keep a close eye on the inquest and the Coroner's findings when they come."

Her family have called the decision to overturn the original ruling "incredible".