Page last updated at 19:54 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Councils face de Menezes bill

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Menezes inquest cost question

Four councils in south London could have to pay a bill of more than 4m for the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest to be held, it has been revealed.

Mr de Menezes, 27, was shot on a train at Stockwell Tube Station after Metropolitan police mistook him for one of the failed 21 July 2005 bombers.

Under existing Ministry of Justice rules, four local councils have to pay the costs for the inquest at the Oval.

Southwark council's leader said central government should pick up the bill.

"I think this is a matter of sheer political common sense," said councillor Nick Stanton.

He said the costs could affect council tax bills.

"At a time when more and more people are struggling to pay things like council tax bills, I can't believe that government really wants to land an extra 1% on council taxpayers in places like Southwark."

Urgent changes need to be made to the funding of inquests, particularly in complex cases
Deborah Coles, Inquest
The other three councils that will share the bill are Lambeth, Lewisham and Greenwich.

The bill for the de Menezes inquest is considerably higher than normal, owing to the cost of renting the Oval Cricket Ground venue to accommodate all the parties involved and the public.

It is also higher due to the length of the inquest, which has been ongoing since 22 September.

Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest, the charitable trust that supports bereaved families through the inquest process, said: "Urgent changes need to be made to the funding of inquests, particularly in complex cases."

Ms Coles said cases in which there was an element of state or corporate responsibility should not be funded by local taxpayers.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed that the costs would be met by the councils, but said that justice officials would meet with local officials to discuss the matter.

Some legal bills for the police and other interested parties, including the de Menezes family, will be covered by central government or private insurance companies.



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