Written evidence from Tracey Mc Court
My name is Tracey Mc Court , I am a 54 year wife and mother who works part time as a cleaner in a factory. On 11th September 2010 my brother-in-law, Leonard Mc Court, died in the back of a police van. After a period of time we learnt that as a family we were not eligible for Legal Aid for representation at the Inquest and therefore we would have to represent ourselves, my family decided that I would be the one to do this.
Where to start.... Leonard died on the 11th September 2010 after 23 minutes with the police, as a family we were devastated, he was 44 years old. The first few days were a total blur, dealing with the then IPCC and having to find a solicitor. The IPCC conducted their investigation and then we were told there would be a Inquest. It was at this time that we were told that as a family we would not qualify for Legal Aid and that if we wanted to we could represent ourselves, again we were devastated.
The Inquest was scheduled for October 2012, 2 YEARS !!!!! after his death, a terrible length of time for us to have to wait. Sadly we had also lost Leonards Mother, his older brother and my father had also died suddenly during this period. We never got the chance to grieve for any of them.
Through spending hours upon hours an weeks upon weeks of trawling the internet I tried to obtain as much information as possible as to how the Inquest process worked, we were given no information from anyone. I realised I needed all the disclosure from all the parties involved, I can honestly say this was a nightmare and was only obtained in June 2012, 5 months to prepare for the biggest challenge of my life.
Those 5 months were spent reading nine files of documents ,policies, procedures , statements, post mortem reports etc, the impact this had on my family can NOT be put into words.
The Coroners assistant was very helpful and I am truly thankful for that, the week before the Inquest was due to start she allowed me to visit the courtroom and showed me where everyone would be sitting.
The Inquest began on October 16th 2012 and was scheduled for three weeks. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was met with on that first day, the amount of people there, mainly police officers left me feeling sick to my stomach . The police force and police officers involved had barristers, they also had members from the Police Federation and Professional Standards, there was me and a 4th year law student with all Leonards family behind me. The first three days were just terrifying , I felt way out of my depth and just thought that I was letting my family down as they were so desperate for answers to what had happened to their son and brother. I'll never forget the look on Leonards fathers face as he listened to the evidence of what had happened to his youngest son, he was a broken man .
The remaining two weeks were slightly better and I did feel more confident asking the questions. The inquest came to its last day and the jury were sent out to make their decision. The verdict was Misadventure with a narrative. The Coroner made a long list of recommendations to the police force and I asked if we could be kept informed as to if and when these recommendations would be carried out, Professional Standards agreed.
That was it.... all over.... no information of anyone else we could contact, get on with your lives basically.
For a long time afterwards I thought about how I could have done things differently and again this caused a great emotional strain on my family, it was too late, the Inquest was finished.
In the following months I spoke to many outlets explaining how WRONG it is for any family to have to go through this process without proper representation especially when a public body is involved, it became a focus for us all.
In December 2019 I was asked to speak on behalf of another young girl who's father had died in police custody in March 2012, 7 years she had had to wait for the Inquest. I think what saddened me the most was to see how little things had changed since our Inquest, another young girl on her own but a police force with the best representation available.
To me the Inquest process is easy to understand and follow, what makes it hard is when lawyers and barristers become involved and try to complicate and manipulate the process with unnecessary legal jargon , it surely is a MUST that families have the same representation.
I hope my experience will help to make the changes so clearly needed.