Ruth Perry: Family meet £50k target for inquest legal costs

Family launched crowdfunding campaign after being denied legal aid days before an inquest into headteacher's death

Family launched crowdfunding campaign after being denied legal aid days before an inquest into headteacher's death

27 Nov 2023, 10:04

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A crowfunding campaign from the family of headteacher Ruth Perry after their request for legal aid for this week’s inquest was turned down has met its target in just three days.

A fundraising page, launched by Perry’s sister Julia Waters on Friday, totalled more than £63,000 from 4,100 donations as of Monday morning.

An original target was set at £50,000 after the family learned their application to fund their legal representation had been rejected.

The Gofundme page noted that other interested parties including Ofsted, Reading Borough Council and Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust will “de facto have their legal costs paid from the public purse” as public bodies.

“While the bereaved family will receive no financial support, Ofsted have been instructed by the coroner to bring no more than five members of their legal team to the inquest,” it added.

“We believe this legal and financial inequity to be unjust”.

It is understood that other interested parties have been allocated space for five legal representatives due to limited capacity within the courtroom, with Ofsted taking three.

The Ministry of Justice said: “We know this will be an incredibly difficult time for the family and friends of Ruth Perry and our thoughts remain with them.”

It added that legal aid representation was not necessary “in the vast majority of inquests”.

Perry died in January. Her family have said she took her own life before the publication of an Ofsted report rating Caversham Primary School ‘inadequate’.

Ofsted to give evidence at inquest this week

A high-profile inquest examining the cause and circumstances of her death will open at Berkshire Coroners’ Court tomorrow.

It is scheduled to run over six days, with the Ofsted inspectors who conducted the visit last year due to give evidence on the opening day.

Senior coroner Heidi Connor has decided not to hold an “enhanced” article 2 investigation which are “held in cases where the state or its agents have failed to protect the deceased against a threat or other risk”, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

A Jamieson inquest, which usually record a conclusion of suicide where a person has taken their own life “as opposed to lack of care or neglect” contributing to the death, will instead take place.

Connor said she had also “tried to steer away from matters of the grading” by Ofsted.

Last week, Waters described claims by the chief Ofsted inspector that critics used Perry’s death as a “pivot to try and discredit” its work as “grossly insensitive”.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We were deeply saddened by the death of Ruth Perry and our thoughts remain with her loved ones and the community at Caversham Primary School.

“We have listened to the public debate around our inspections this year and we announced measures to improve aspects of our work with schools in the summer.”

They added that the watchdog was “continuing to support” the inquest and would give evidence at the hearing this week.

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