The London Legal Support Trust (LLST) works to support law centres and legal advice agencies in London and the South East by providing them with grant funding alongside other forms of support.
The London Legal Walk is the biggest event in the LLST’s calendar, the walk raises much needed funds for charities that provide free legal advice to those who cannot afford it, such as Law Centres and CABs. These advice agencies do a crucial job in preventing homelessness, improving the living conditions of children in extreme poverty and trying to combat discrimination and injustice. They help over 2 million people every year receive protection, shelter and education. For over 60 years legal advice services have been helping local people to help themselves. The right advice early on can save £10 for every £1 invested and keep families together in their homes, and in work and education. Up to two-thirds of the population are unaware of how to get the legal services they need, and nearly 70% have no knowledge of basic legal processes. Less than 50% of young people facing serious problems, for example in housing and education, get the advice they need.
The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) removed legal aid for most social welfare law including housing, immigration, welfare benefits, and employment and at a time where welfare benefits are being reformed. The introduction of the Act means that the poor and vulnerable, and those least able to defend themselves, may be left without access to justice. Removing legal aid for welfare benefits claims relating to a person’s sole source of income could breach Article 3 of the ECHR (prohibition against inhuman and degrading treatment), together with Article 14 (rights set out in the Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground).
The introduction of the Act also means that advice relating to private family law has been removed from the legal aid scheme (save for those cases that can produce ‘trigger evidence’ of domestic violence). As a result, people can no longer get funding for divorce or child contact or residence disputes. The definition of domestic violence in LASPO is narrower than the Home Office definition, which means many victims of domestic violence may be effectively barred from litigation, including for emergency injunctions. This is likely to breach positive obligations under Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 of the ECHR.
The cuts presented by LASPO not only affect the most vulnerable in society but they jeopardise the rule of law, limiting people’s legal rights and access to effective justice. The right of access to a court must be meaningful and practical, not theoretical. As stated by Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court and Patron of the London Legal Support Trust, “The need for access to justice through free legal advice centres has grown considerably during the recession while the availability of legal aid has reduced. The need for fundraising through the London Legal Walk has never been greater.”
The walk was 10km long, starting at Carey Street (just off Chancery Lane) heading up the Embankment through Whitehall and St James’s Park, around the Serpentine and heading down The Mall through the Strand ending in a street party back at Carey Street. In its 10th year and with a heightened importance, the walk was the biggest ever with 8,200 legal professionals taking part including: The Lord Chief Justice, 7 Law Lords, 5 Lord Justices, 127 Judges, 73 QCs, 267 Partners and Heads of Chambers, 20 CEOs and 9 dogs. With the fundraising efforts ongoing until August of this year we are on track to raise over £530,000.
This year’s walk was a huge success, we are very grateful to all those who took part including our 45 volunteers, 70 Marshalls and 8 interns who were happy to blow up over 500 balloons, hand out 5,000 maps, 3984 water bottles, 820 mugs and hang over a 1,000ft of bunting.
For more information about LLST fundraising please see our teams’ fundraising pages at http://londonlegalsupporttrust.org.uk/our-events/london-legal-walk-2014/team-fundraising-pages/ and/or download the LLST app from iTunes and similar android app stores.
The LLST’s 692 professional photographs can be found at http://londonlegalsupporttrust.org.uk/our-events/london-legal-walk-2014/2014-professional-photos/.