Families must not be made to wait for an inquest

BLAISE TAPP: 'Tis the season to be more giving to the lonely

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It is surely impossible to fully imagine the anguish that has been felt by Robin and Jenny Hollington over the death of their son Richard. That grief has been shared by his brothers, by his extended family and indeed by all who knew him.

The manner in which he lived his short but fulfilled life was writ large in the testimony of comrades at the inquest into his death.

They spoke movingly of a young man who was a friend rather than just a colleague, who was a natural leader and whose determined and proactive outlook on life inspired those he met.

The measure of the man was probably best summed up by his commanding officer, who told the hearing: ‘He was pure gold.’

The qualities Richard inherited and learnt from his parents have shone through in their tireless work since his death to raise money in his memory for the Help for Heroes charity and to question with reserved but determined dignity some of the aspects of Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan and the level of safety and support accorded our servicemen and women there.

After the inquest they questioned too, with undoubted justification, the length of time it has taken for the hearing to be called. It was not held until almost 18 months after the Royal Marine died from infected wounds after a bomb ambush in Afghanistan.

The coroner apologised to the family for the delay, saying it was because the coroners’ system had been underfunded for years.

Robin Hollington is entitled to ask why he and his wife and family have been made to wait so long before the necessary public examination into the circumstances of Richard’s death.

Almost all the evidence was gathered immediately after the tragedy. It beggars belief that the government has left coroners so underfunded that families – and the Hollingtons are not the first – are forced to wait month after month for an inquest.

Robin Hollington wants answers from the Ministry of Justice and the MoD. He is entitled to that – and to immediate action to prevent unacceptable waits by other grieving families.