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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 December 2007, 01:52 GMT
No legal aid for Hercules inquest
The inquest is due to begin at the end of March
Families of nine UK personnel killed in a plane shot down in Iraq will get no legal aid at an inquest but those of an Australian airman will, it has emerged.

All 10 onboard the Wiltshire-based Hercules died when it was shot down in January 2005, in the biggest single UK loss of life in the Iraq conflict.

The Australian government will pay for a lawyer for relatives of Flt Lt Paul Pardoel at the inquest in March.

The sister of one of the dead men said the government was "letting them down".

In England and Wales, legal aid is available for inquests only in exceptional circumstances.

The Legal Services Commission, which runs the legal aid scheme, says the questions which will be asked by the Australian lawyer, combined with the experience of the coroner, should serve the interests of the British relatives.

Flt Lt David Stead
Flt Lt Andrew Smith
Flt Lt Paul Pardoel
Master Engineer Gary Nicholson
Chief Technician Richard Brown
Flt Sgt Mark Gibson
Sgt Robert O'Connor
Cpl David Williams
Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall
Acting L/Cpl Steven Jones

But Sarah Chapman, sister of engineer Sgt Robert O'Connor, who died in the crash, said: "I don't want to stand in a court-room and be barraged with information, I don't know what to do.

"The government let those men down and they're still letting them down now and I want the public to know that."

Her solicitor says the circumstances surrounding the incident are exceptional and would justify granting legal aid.

The government let those men down and they're still letting them down now
Sarah Chapman

Girish Thanki said the amount of money the Ministry of Defence would be spending on the inquest would put the families at a disadvantage.

It seemed the government did not really want a probing inquiry into how its duty of care was breached, he said.

The Ministry of Defence has made no immediate response to the allegation.

The Ministry of Justice confirmed that the families of those killed in military service were not automatically granted legal aid, but pointed out that it had been granted for a number of recent inquests.

The inquest is expected to begin at the end of March.

Reaction to the decision not to grant legal aid

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