I spent a wonderful afternoon in Parliament on the 18th of July, leading a delegation from Hackney Community Law Centre to the House of Commons for the launch of the issue 3 of Proof Magazine – ‘Why legal aid matters‘.
The publication, produced by The Justice Gap (for whom I am a commissioning editor) and The Justice Alliance – a coalition of charities, community groups, legal campaigners and trade unions who campaign against Government cuts to legal aid – tells the story of why legal aid matters promoting the campaign to highlight the devastating impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), which was introduced by the former coalition government in 2012. The magazine was funded through a crowdfunding campaign I ran in June 2016.
It was wonderful that Julius Holgate, a Hackney Community Law Centre client, came up to Parliament with my colleagues and I to speak about his terrible experience with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Julius is a double amputee with no legs who had been assessed ‘fit for work’ by the DWP. The DWP had argued that because he had arms, he could use them to ‘climb’ stairs and so had ‘mobility’. When his benefits were cut, Julius fell into debt and had to pawn his jewellery to survive. It was only when Hackney Community Law Centre got involved – despite there being no legal aid funding to do so – that the DWP overturned this decision. Continue reading “Proof Magazine Launch in Parliament”
I was delighted to attend a recent ‘Abbott Appreciation’ evening in honour of my friend Diane Abbott, the Member of Parliament for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and Shadow Home Secretary.
During the 2017 general election campaign, Diane was subjected to misogynoir and abuse that went beyond even the high levels she normally receives.
Distressed and disgusted by the situation, a group of switched on ‘woke’ young black women decided to hold an #AbbottAppreciation evening for Diane to show solidarity and thank her for breaking through the glass ceiling and entering parliament as the first black female MP on June the 11th 1987.
I was pleased to be at the event to show my own personal appreciation for Diane who has been a loyal and supportive friend to me. In 2007, when I went through a terrible political and personal time, she (unlike some other politicians with whom I’d been close friends) never abandoned me. I only survived this horrible period because of friends like her.
Well done to #AbbottAppreciation organiser Stephanie Ouzo and her kick ass friends for holding Diane up to the light. Still she rises.
Read more about the wonderful Abbott Appreciation event HERE.
I was delighted to welcome Australian student Mark Munnich to Haringey Law Centre earlier this month. Mark comes from the Indigenous Aboriginal community in Darwin, the Northern Territory of Australia.
Mark spent two weeks in London with Felicity Gerry QC as part of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency’s (NAAJA) Bilata Legal Pathways Program, which seeks to encourage more young Australians from the indigenous Aboriginal communities to become the lawyers and judges of tomorrow.
I was deeply impressed by Mark. He had a poise and focus that I have rarely seen in young students. Still only an undergraduate student, he has already represented Australia at the Commonwealth Youth Parliament and will shortly become a fellow on a programmme at the United Nations. I have no doubt that Mark has a big future ahead of him in law, politics or both! Definitely a young man to watch!
Read about what Mark had to say about his trip to London HERE.
I had a really good meeting with Catherine West MP, the Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green, in Parliament earlier this week. Law Centres Network director Julie Bishop (pictured right) and I met Catherine (pictured centre) to discuss Haringey Law Centre and the many positive developments afoot. It’s fantastic to have Catherine – and Tottenham MP David Lammy’s – full support as we try to help Haringey Law Centre colleagues rebuild the Centre.
I was delighted to participate in a recent roundtable discussion on the future of Legal Aid. The roundtable, which was organised by the Justice Alliance and chaired by Guardian journalist Shiv Malik, will be turned into a feature in a special edition of the Justice Gap‘s Proof Magazine. The issue will focus entirely on legal aid.
Other participants at the roundtable included Richard Burgon MP, the Shadow Justice Secretary; Greg Powell, solicitor and former president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association; Deborah Coles, Director of Inquest; Vakas Hussain, barrister and press officer of British Muslim Youth; and Gloria Morrison from campaign group Joint Enterprise Not Guilty By Association (JENGbA).
The discussion was excellent. Everyone who contributed had a professional or campaign interest in legal aid but it was clear that they also cared deeply about access to justice issues on a personal level. It was an real honour to be invited to take part and be in such esteemed company.
The first two issues of Proof Magazine have focused on ‘Justice in a Time of Moral Panic‘ and ‘The Limits of Open Justice‘. The special issue on legal aid will be published shortly. It promises to be a informative and long overdue read.