Surrey

Zane Gbangbola flood death: Legal aid reconsidered

Zane Gbangbola
Image caption Zane Gbangbola died at his family home in Chertsey, Surrey, during severe flooding

Legal aid may be provided for the family of a Surrey boy who died during floods in the county so a lawyer can represent them at his inquest.

A hearing into the death of seven-year-old Zane Gbangbola, who died in February 2014 at their home in Chertsey, is due to start on 13 June and last several weeks.

Legal aid was refused when the case was deemed "not in the public interest".

The family disputes tests which suggest Zane died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Surrey Police checked a petrol-driven water pump taken from the riverside property.

Image caption The Gbangbola's family home next to the Thames was partly flooded

Zane's parents, Kye Gbangbola and Nicole Lawler, believe their son was killed by hydrogen cyanide from contaminated floodwater in a former landfill site next door.

Hospital blood tests revealed the gas was present in the whole family.

The Legal Aid Agency said it was now considering a new application after it suggested the parents provide further evidence.

'Parents' worst nightmare'

The shadow home secretary Andy Burnham has called on the Justice Secretary Michael Gove to intervene.

In a letter, he wrote: "It seems utterly unjust for this family, who have been living every parents' worst nightmare and are now on the brink of bankruptcy, to be thrown into a court room for the inquest on their child without proper legal support and representation.

"But we also believe the Legal Aid Agency's ruling on lack of public interest is flawed. There are many thousands of properties in the UK at risk of flooding and which are located close to landfill sites."

The Surrey coroner Richard Travers wrote to the family to say the case would be complex and his court "would be better assisted" if they had representation.

In March, the Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC Surrey: "Inquests are generally carried out in a way that people do not need a lawyer... and can get to the truth and participate fully. I am sure that will be the case in this situation."

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