Seven-year-old Zane Gbangbola’s parents have resorted to appealing for public donations to raise £70,000 so a barrister can represent them at their son’s inquest.
Kye and Nicole Gbangbola have spent two years compiling a mountain of evidence which they claim shows Zane was killed by hydrogen cyanide gas in floodwater coming from a former landfill site at the rear of their home in Chertsey, Surrey, in February 2014.
A six-week inquest is due to start on June 13 but the Legal Aid Agency – a Ministry of Justice quango – has refused Zane’s parents the money they need to pay for a barrister because the application for ‘exceptional case funding’ did not meet its public-interest tests.
Meanwhile, the Environment Agency, a local council and an NHS trust have all hired barristers at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pound of taxpayers’ money to fight their case.
The inquest is so complex, even the senior Surrey coroner, Mr Travers, has taken the exceptional step of hiring his own publicly funded barrister to assist him.
In a letter to Zane’s parents, Mr Travers also expressed his frustration that they have been denied legal aid. He warned the case was ‘complex and exceptional’, adding: ‘The court would be better assisted if the family were to be represented.’
Two prominent Labour MPs also stepped into the growing political row over the case last night, appealing directly to Justice Secretary Michael Gove to overturn the decision and grant the family legal aid.
In a letter to Mr Gove, Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham and former Crown Prosecution Service chief Keir Starmer wrote: ‘It seems to us utterly unjust for this family to be thrown in to a court room for the inquest on their child without proper legal support and representation.’
But with hope fading of a last-minute change of heart from the Legal Aid Agency, Mr and Mrs Gbangbola have managed to raise more than £26,000 through online donations from supporters – still well short of the money needed.
Nicole, 39, said: ‘Throughout this nightmare, we never dreamed we would be left in a situation where we would be fighting for justice with both hands tied behind our backs.
‘I hope people can keep donating, no matter how small the amount.’
To make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/TruthAboutZane.
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