Sussex

Shoreham air show crash: Families' legal aid refused

(Top row, left to right) Matt Jones, Matthew Grimstone, Jacob Schilt, Maurice Abrahams, Richard Smith. (Bottom row, left to right) Mark Reeves, Tony Brightwell, Mark Trussler, Daniele Polito, Dylan Archer, Graham Mallinson Image copyright BBC/Sussex Police/Facebook
Image caption (Top row, left to right) Matt Jones, Matthew Grimstone, Jacob Schilt, Maurice Abrahams, Richard Smith. (Bottom row, left to right) Mark Reeves, Tony Brightwell, Mark Tussler, Daniele Polito, Dylan Archer, Graham Mallinson

The Prime Minister has been asked to ensure the families of 11 men who died in the Shoreham air disaster "have proper access to justice" after they were refused legal aid.

During Prime Minister's Questions, East Worthing and Shoreham Conservative MP Tim Loughton called on Theresa May to look again at the decision.

Mrs May pledged to ask the Lord Chancellor to investigate at the issue.

A Hawker Hunter jet crashed on the A27 in Sussex on 22 August 2015.

This year, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) listed a series of failings, including poor risk assessments, which resulted in the crash.

The jet crashed during an aerobatic manoeuvre and was flying too low, investigators found.

Another 13 people, including pilot Andy Hill, were injured.

Image copyright NASA

Mr Loughton said: "Over 26 months later no decision has been taken on criminal charges and the coroner's inquest has been delayed again, until November next year."

He said the families were likely to be the only people at the inquest not legally represented.

Mrs May said: "The Department for Transport has accepted the AAIB recommendation to commission an independent review and are working with them to determine the scope of the review.

"There is considerable work going on to learn lessons from this disaster.

'Let down'

"We are committed, where there is a public disaster, that people are able to have proper representation. This is an issue which I will ask the Lord Chancellor to look at."

James Healy Pratt, the lawyer representing most of the families, said: "It's a mystery to me why 11 innocent families are not being provided the fair and proper funding support they deserve."

Lesley Polito, who lost her 23-year-old son Daniele, said: "We shouldn't even have to be thinking about costs. We are innocent parties."

Edwina Abrahams, widow of 76-year-old Maurice Abrahams, said she felt "let down".

The Ministry of Justice has been approached for comment.

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