Belfast Telegraph

Legal aid denied to grieving father for son's inquest

BY AMANDA FERGUSON

A lawyer for the father of an engineer killed in an industrial accident said he will find it difficult to fund legal representation at the inquest into his son's death after being refused legal aid.

Solicitor advocate Sam Creighton was speaking yesterday at a preliminary hearing at Belfast Coroner's Court regarding the death of 27-year-old Gareth Keys, from Victoria Road in Belfast.

The father-of-two was servicing an elevated platform in May 2008 while working for a Dunmurry plant hire firm when he suffered fatal neck and spinal injuries.

At an earlier preliminary hearing in April, Mr Creighton said that a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) official reported that two safety systems on the machine failed at the time of Mr Keys' death.

Yesterday Mr Creighton, representing Gareth's father, William Keys, told the court he wants a jury to hear the case, but cannot exhaust all his savings to pay for lengthy legal representation associated with probing concerns about Gareth's death.

Coroner Jim Kitson told the court without a jury the inquest would take one to two days, but legislation requires there to be a jury in the case of a death at work.

Inquest proceedings with a jury could take up to three weeks, resulting in significant legal fees for all parties.

JLS Industries, which manufactured the platform, is being represented at the inquest by solicitor Frances Thompson from the legal firm Kennedys, while barrister Peter Cush has been instructed by Murphy and O'Rawe for Highway Plant, which rented it out.

Mr Creighton told the Belfast Telegraph as all other parties have legal representation, the Keys family would like the same.

"They started off from a point of view of more or less everyone was blaming him, saying that he caused his own death by being careless," the solicitor advocate said.

"That's something they found very hard to accept, because he wasn't a careless person."

Mr Creighton said the Keys family's point is that two different safety mechanisms on the scissor lift failed at the time of Gareth's death.

"If they fail they should stop the machine from working.

"So, essentially our point is this machine was faulty in the design," he said.

Background

Legal aid is paid by the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission to help people who cannot afford a lawyer to access justice.

The father of Belfast man Gareth Keys, who died in an industrial accident in 2008, has been refused legal aid. An inquest with a jury can take up to three weeks, resulting in significant legal fees.

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