Forgive me for raising a matter affecting the families of murder victims, when we are engrossed in our own future, but it is important.

A suspected murderer had gone on the run, hiding away for many weeks. I had represented him before and had no doubt I would represent him on this murder case. However, I was not able to release the victim’s body to his family until I had my own pathologist report. I needed legal aid.

‘We need the defendant’s signature first,’ they said. ‘But he is on the run and the deceased family urgently need to cremate their son.’

‘Sorry, no signature from the defendant... no legal aid.’

The victim’s family had already suffered the trauma of their son’s death. Now they had to wait until my client was arrested and able to sign the forms.

An administrative system crying out for urgent, compassionate, reform. I wrote to the Home Office and did not hear back. Maybe publishing this letter will make someone listen. I do not hold my breath.

Bert Gibson, semi-retired criminal solicitor, Newcastle upon Tyne