Thousands sign petition demanding legal aid for mother of Alexia Walenkaki

Alexia Walenkaki
Alexia Walenkaki died when a rotting playground swing collapsed on her in Mile End park in July 2015. Photograph: Family handout

Thousands of people have signed a petition urging the government to give legal aid to the mother of a five-year-old girl who was killed by a falling tree in a Tower Hamlets park.

Alexia Walenkaki was playing on a rope swing in Mile End Park on 17 July last year when the tree trunk holding the swing collapsed and fell on her.

She suffered a cardiac arrest, and died a few hours later in the Royal London Hospital, the day before her sixth birthday.

An inquest into her death is to take place in January next year, but Alexia’s mother Vida Kwotuah, from Poplar, has been denied legal aid because the case is “not in the public interest”.

A testimony made in a pre-inquest hearing stated that Tower Hamlets Council, which manages the park, had not carried out a maintenance inspection for 21 months at the time of Alexia’s death.

The council will receive legal representation paid for by the taxpayer.

Mrs Kwotuah has said she cannot afford a barrister for the inquest. Though told that she could represent herself, she said to the Evening Standard: “English isn’t even my first language, I couldn’t do it. I strongly believe people should be treated fairly and equally and this isn’t happening here.

“Alexia did not die in my house. She died in a public place, a park. It’s important not just for Alexia, but for others who could end up in my position, that I fight this.”

The petition on website change.org has received well over 8,000 signatures so far, and will be sent to Downing Street within the next few days.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice has previously said: “We are currently considering an appeal from the family and will make a final decision on whether to provide legal aid in due course. Legal aid can only be granted where the case meets the requirements for funding which have been set in law.”

Legal aid can be granted on the grounds of public interest.

1 Comment

  1. Muhammad Haque on Friday 15 July 2016 at 2:40 pm

    This one is a ‘novel’ excuse being given in the name of the “Legal Aid” bureaucracy

    However, an even more important point must be made here.

    What is “access to justice”?

    This question is of the utmost importance, especially as I am writing oN Friday 15 July 2016 when the Daily Mail is running several boasts that Theresa May, the ‘new’ ‘female’ Prime Minister’ is ALSO the one who has wielded the longest knife so far against the “posh boys’ regime” that Cameron and Osborne personified for a six years plus.

    Is Ms May going to scrap the curbs foisted by Cameron and Osborne to access to universally defined and recognised applications for justice in the UK?

    Is Ms May going to discontinue what Chris Grayling imposed against remedies to be sought through the judicial bureaucracy?

    The case of this five year old child whose death has been linked to stated negligence of the local Tower Hamlets Council serves to add much overdue sense of urgency to what the duties of a local – PUBLICLY FUNDED – Council such as Tower Hamlets Council are.

    If the definition as reportedly attributed to the “legal aid” agency is accepted then Society itself may be deemed to have ceased.

    Which is what must be the feeling of the chid Alexia’s mum and her
    distraught devastated relatives and loved ones at being rebuffed, denied and obstructed in the way and with the frequency that they have been.

    What is Theresa May going to do for people like Alexia’s mum and relatives?

    Is Ms May going to say that “there is no such thing as Society’ just as there is no such thing as “public interest” in demanding justice for Alexia?

    One other very pertinent point that must be made is:

    AUDIENCE in Courts!

    The need for “legal aid” for licensed law traders should be
    made subject to evidence that those paid as licensed law traders are thereby also gatherings the standard of advocacy that bereaved relatives like Alexia’s mum and family deserve.

    Legal representations should be replaced by Advocating Rights.

    Access to justice can then begin to become reality.

    Alexia’s mum COULD get a high standard of advocacy of instead of legal aid, her needs were being seen from the advocacy standard point and the advocacy support were allowed to be provided to her by the judicial system that current bars “audience” rights
    to those not carrying licences to trade in law, either as solicitors or as barristers.

    Being limited to “the right to hire a solicitor or barrister” is not being entitled to seek justice.

    1440 Hrs GMT London Friday 15 July 2016



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