Molly Russell: U-turn over legal aid for inquest

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Molly RussellImage source, PA
Image caption,
Molly Russell died in 2017 after seeing content about suicide on social media

The family of a teenager who took her own life after viewing material about self-harm on social media have been granted legal aid for her inquest, after being initially turned down.

Molly Russell was 14 when she died in 2017 and her parents in part blame the content she viewed on Instagram.

Her parents appealed when refused funds to cover their lawyers for the hearing.

Ian Russell said he was flabbergasted when officials told him the case did not have "wider public interest".

Mr Russell said he was delighted the Legal Aid Agency - which operates under the Ministry of Justice - confirmed it had reconsidered its decision.

He added: "I would like to thank everyone for the many offers of support we have received. This decision is a weight lifted from our family and we now look ahead to a full and fearless inquest into Molly's death."

His daughter's case led ministers to demand that online firms do more to remove harmful posts.

The coroner overseeing Molly's inquest has written to Facebook, the owner of Instagram - as well as Pinterest, YouTube and Apple - requesting they hand over all relevant information to the case.

Legal Aid guidelines says funding is not automatically granted at inquests except in "exceptional circumstances".

Media caption,

Molly Russell's parents want tech companies to give them access to her data

Merry Varney, solicitor at Leigh Day, the law firm representing Molly's family, said: "It is disappointing that our clients had to go through the appeal process to get a positive outcome... and many other families are not successful in their appeals."

She called for more legal aid funding for inquests, saying many families ended up representing themselves "completely unqualified".

The Ministry of Justice says it had reviewed the system of legal aid at inquests and changes would make it "more accessible and supportive".

If you’ve been affected by self-harm, or emotional distress, help and support is available via the BBC Action Line.