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.