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Lawyers review Groce legal aid bid


Cherry Groce at St Thomas' Hospital, London, after she was accidentally shot by police in Brixton, south London

Cherry Groce at St Thomas' Hospital, London, after she was accidentally shot by police in Brixton, south London

Cherry Groce at St Thomas' Hospital, London, after she was accidentally shot by police in Brixton, south London

Lawyers are reviewing the decision to deny legal aid for the family of a woman whose shooting by the police sparked the 1985 Brixton riots to be represented at the inquest into her death.

Cherry Groce was paralysed below the waist when she was shot in 1985. She was accidentally shot by officers seeking her son Michael during an early morning raid on her home. She died in April 2011, aged 63, having spent 26 years in a wheelchair.

A Legal Aid Agency spokesman said: "The Legal Aid Agency is currently reviewing its decision in this case."

It comes after the Groce family, accompanied by their local MP Chuka Umunna, presented the petition of more than 129,000 signatures at Number 10 today, demanding they should be granted legal aid for the inquest in June.

Mrs Groce's son Lee Lawrence was 11 years old when he saw his mother shot.

He said: "Today our family broke a 30-year silence and sent a clear message to David Cameron that 130,000 people want to see the justice we have been so cruelly denied.

"It's wrong that we can't get legal aid to get to the bottom of why our mum died. We hope that this outpouring of support shows that this case is firmly in the public interest."

Mr Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham, said there is "huge public interest" in this case along with the "injustice visited upon Cherry Groce and her children" to argue that the decision whether to reverse the denial of legal aid should be made by Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling personally.

He said: "The family of Cherry Groce has suffered for three generations from the injustice that was Cherry's shooting by the Metropolitan Police in 1985.

"The initial decision to deny the legal aid assistance this family needs was both perverse and wrong - the family has suffered enough and the Lord Chancellor should reverse this decision without delay and give them the legal support that the other represented parties are being afforded by the taxpayer.

"The initial determination that it is not in the public interest to award legal aid in these circumstances is perverse: there is a clear public interest here which is why over 130,000 people have signed the petition in support of the campaign."

Dozens of civilians and 10 police officers were injured in the unrest on the streets of Brixton, south London, following the shooting.

Days later, disorder broke out on the Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham, north London, following the death of another black woman, Cynthia Jarrett, who collapsed with a stroke after police raided her home. Pc Keith Blakelock was stabbed to death during the subsequent rioting.

Inspector Douglas Lovelock, the marksman who shot Mrs Groce, stood trial in 1987 charged with inflicting unlawful and malicious grievous bodily harm, and was acquitted.

Documents obtained by Channel 4 News, ahead of the inquest, have revealed that pathologists for both the family and the police concluded there is a causal link between the shooting and her death.

Her family's request for legal aid for representation at the inquest has been denied, prompting them to start a petition on online platform Change.org which they delivered to Downing Street today.

The petition says: "Without legal aid we will be financially excluded from participating, which means we are not able to adequately and effectively take part in such a complex case and it is unfair to expect us to do so whilst the other three interested parties are being publicly funded."