Keane Wallis Bennett’s family to get Legal Aid, court told

Keane Wallis-Bennett
Keane Wallis-Bennett

A LAWYER has told a court how the family of schoolgirl Keane Wallis Bennett will receive public funding to pay for legal representation ahead at inquiry into why she died.

Advocate David Anderson told Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen QC that the Scottish Legal Aid Board had agreed that Keane’s parents should be represented at a forthcoming Fatal Accident Inquiry.

An inquiry has been called into the circumstances surrounding the death of 12-year-old Keane at Edinburgh’s Liberton High School in April 2014.

She lost her life when a PE block modesty wall collapsed on top of her.

Lawyers acting for the family had previously told Sheriff Principal Stephen that they thought SLAB didn’t think there was a need for the family to have legal representation at proceedings.

During a procedural hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday, Mr Anderson said that SLAB had now approved their legal aid.

He told the court that the board had approved funding for Keane’s mother, Abbie. The court heard how an application which had been made by Keane’s father Clark was in the process of being approved.

Mr Anderson added: “The application is anticipated to be approved and in place for the beginning of the inquiry.”

The Fatal Accident Inquiry is scheduled to take place next month.

The Crown Office said it was in the public interest to hold such an inquiry to help avoid such an incident happening again.

Keane’s death prompted Edinburgh council to order urgent checks at schools across the city.

The case was also investigated by police and the Health and Safety Executive under the direction of the Crown Office’s health and safety division.

Keane’s death shocked her schoolmates and led to hundreds of tributes including a song recorded by her friends in her memory that made it into the top 100 on the download chart in December 2014.

The gym hall at the school has since been demolished in accordance with the wishes of staff and parents there.

The Crown have also announced that no criminal charges were to be brought against anybody involved in the incident.

Following the hearing on Thursday, Sheriff Principal Stephan arranged for another procedural hearing to take place on May 31.

The FAI is expected to start in June.

A spokesman for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said: “The family has been granted legal aid for representation at the FAI.

“As the Sheriff Principal pointed out, the court was previously given misleading information by the family’s legal representative about their situation with legal aid.

“We prioritise legal aid applications for FAIs but can only grant them when the required evidence is provided.

“We had explained what was required to the nominated solicitor prior to the previous hearing but the Sheriff Principal was instead given an incorrect explanation for why legal aid had not been granted at that time.”