We need financial aid for inquest, says family
The family of a man who died after his car plunged into a Co Down harbour have appealed for financial help to pay legal costs when his inquest is held next month.
The call for financial help came after coroner John Leckey refused to rule out making a finding of gross medical negligence into the death of Steven McAdam.
The 43-year-old, from Grandmere Park in Bangor, Co Down, is alleged to have driven his car off a pier into the sea at Donaghadee Harbour in 2004, two days after being discharged from Craigavon Area Hospital because no psychiatric beds were available.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission previously urged the coroner to consider whether medical authorities failed to protect the life of Mr McAdam under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act.
At a preliminary hearing yesterday legal representative for the Craigavon and Ulster Health Trusts, Gerry McAlinden, argued that the issue of gross negligence should not be considered during the inquest.
He added: "The evidence to date doesn't in any way approach the threshold for gross negligence."
The representative also said the issue of the financial resources of the health trusts was outside the scope of the inquest.
After taking advice from a barrister representing the Attorney General, Mr Leckey said he would take legal opinion as to whether gross negligence had occurred when all the evidence had been heard.
He said: "Once I have heard all the evidence I would be amenable to hear submissions then on simple negligence, gross negligence or no negligence."
The coroner added that he has the power to refer the case to the Public Prosecution Service for a decision on a possible prosecution if he concludes there was gross negligence.
Mr McAdam's sister-in-law, Cathy McAdam, said the family wants a level playing field when the inquest is heard.
She said: "We have applied to the Lord Chancellor for legal assistance. If don't get legal assistance we will not be able to have a barrister. We have done nothing wrong and want equality, we want to be on the same footing as the trust."
Paul McAdam said he is hopeful the truth surrounding his brother's death will be uncovered.
The inquest into Mr McAdam's death is set to take place on November 7.