The family of 14-year-old Molly Russell who took her own life after viewing disturbing material online have been refused legal aid for her inquest.
Her father Ian Russell said they were “stunned” by the decision by the Legal Aid Agency, that refused to fund the case because it would not be in the “wider public interest”.
The family’s lawyers are appealing the decision but have not yet had an answer with less than a week before a pre-inquest review hearing in the case.
They say it would be too harrowing for Molly’s bereaved parents to sift through the material that she viewed and that lawyers should do the work.
She was found to have viewed content on social media linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide before ending her life in November 2017.
Mr Russell said: “We are now less than a week away from the pre-inquest review hearing in Molly’s inquest and our family are in limbo as to whether we can fund legal representation.
“We were stunned by the Legal Aid Agency’s decision that Molly’s inquest is not a matter of wider public interest.
“We know that there are huge numbers of young people out there who are viewing the same kind of disturbing content online and that parents are concerned about what, if anything, is being done to protect young people.
“We believe that only with proper legal representation can we achieve a full and fearless investigation into Molly’s death, and we urge the Legal Aid Agency to reconsider their decision.”
According to the family’s solicitors, the LAA refused funding because “this matter is not of wider public interest” and questioned whether “the investigation in this matter will inevitably lead to significant and material benefits to a large cohort of specific persons”.
It also said that the family could afford to fund the claim themselves.
Speaking at an event at Parliament on Monday, Mr Russell urged the Government to introduce regulation on social media platforms in order to make the internet a “safer place, especially for the young”.
He said his family’s search for answers following his daughter’s death had led him to view her social media accounts, where he said he found “sickening content” in a world where “anxiety and depression and self-harm and suicide are all normalised and encouraged”.
“It was too harrowing to spend long looking at the actual posts that Molly had viewed, posts that I can say with absolute certainty played a part in deepening Molly’s depression and persuading her to end her own life,” he said.