The Centre for Criminal Appeals dedicates its practice to challenging unsafe convictions and unjust sentences. The ATJF awarded the Centre £10,000 in order for appellant prisoners to gain access to trial transcripts, which are usually unaffordable due to the high rates of private transcription companies. A case that benefitted greatly from this increase in funding involved Mr X, a self-represented, vulnerable person serving a sentence of 30 years. The centre obtained trial recordings and had them transcribed by a team of five volunteers. The recordings revealed the disadvantage suffered by this wrongfully convicted prisoner, due to his lack of formal education and the absence of a legal professional at his trial.
Release provides legal advice, assistance and representation to people who engage with drug and/or alcohol treatment. They aim to assist at least 100-120 individuals during the year in over 300 client sessions. They help to resolve issues around debt, benefit payments and housing to create more stable living conditions for their clients
Passage 2000 supports and represents those who need to regularise their immigration status whilst sleeping rough so that they can access benefits accommodation and employment. They used their grant to employ a solicitor to help with the legal process, who was assisted by two volunteer solicitors. They aim to help at least 20 individuals per year.
G was trafficked into the UK and forced to work from the age of 5 years old. She worked as an unpaid maid for them and was routinely beaten and abused. When she was a few years older she was sold on to another family who treated her in a similarly horrific fashion. This continued for 10 years.
Aged 15, she managed to escape and run away from the house she was so scared of. Without money, language skills or an understanding of normal life in the UK she lived on the streets before being found and placed in the care of social services.
Through her Law Centre she applied for refugee status but disputes over her age and lack of documentation caused many delays and initial refusals. She has now been recognised as a victim of trafficking and is beginning to build a new life.
Hartlepool Citizens Advice Bureau has used the money they received from the Access to Justice Foundation to maintain a ‘Telephone Advice Helpline’ for 18 hours a week. An example of their invaluable work involves the advice they gave to a 27 year old student in part time employment. The CAB immediately recognised that he was being underpaid, He was advised to raise a grievance with his employer and, if the matter was still unresolved, to make a claim to the Employment Tribunal. Two weeks later, the client informed the CAB that his employer had conceded, and had now increased his pay to the national minimum wage and allowed him to have paid holidays.
Rights of Women (ROW) promotes the legal rights of women throughout England and Wales, with a particular focus on disadvantaged and vulnerable women that have experienced sexual and/ or domestic violence. The ATJF awarded £5000 to ROW in order to assist them in making a film that would aid women survivors of domestic violence to access justice. The film would help these women navigate the family law legal system, in particular those that are unable to access legal representation due to cuts in legal aid. The film is now being circulated by the Ministry of Justice as well as women’s organisations and VAWG specialists from the Crown Prosecution Service VAWG Expert Reference Group.
The Foundation awarded Vauxhall Community Law Centre a grant of £8,000. The Centre offers advice on many different legal issues, including employment disputes. This guidance was invaluable for local Vauxhall resident, Mrs D, who sought the support of the Law Centre in order to challenge a medical assessment by the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Following the assessment, she was found to be fit for work despite suffering from depression, heart problems and osteoarthritis. In between lodging her appeal and the hearing, Mrs D became so ill that she was put in intensive care. The Centre helped her appeal the decision and represented her at the hearing. She was then awarded the higher rate of the mobility component and the middle rate of the core component of DLA.
Mary is in her 60s, and she stopped work in 2007 as she suffers from Arthritis and emphysema. She was on incapacity benefit, but when that changed to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in 2013, Mary gained only 3 points for mobility of the 15 needed. Her ESA was stopped and the report says she walked for an hour a day in the park next to her home. However, there is no park next to her home and she couldn't walk for 10 minutes, let alone an hour. Thankfully, Hastings Advice and Representation Centre represented Mary at tribunal and gained the benefits (backdated to 2013).
Birmingham Community Law Centre received funding from the Access to Justice Foundation in order to fight social exclusion in communities and effect change in society. One client that used these services, was Gemma, a car sales executive that was dismissed from her job within two months of informing her employer that she was pregnant. She informed her manager of her condition, who then proceeded to dismiss her due to her absence. The Law Centre immediately advised Gemma that she had potential claims for automatic unfair dismissal, pregnancy and maternity discrimination, notice pay, accrued holiday pay and any outstanding wages owed to her.
Paddington Law Centre was awarded a grant of £10,000 in order to pay for the salary of an Employment Law solicitor at the centre. A client that used this service was Mrs X, a disabled woman with various physical health conditions. After 20 years of service, she was bullied out of her job on account of her health problems and was on long term sick leave. The Centre commenced a claim in the Employment Tribunal and successfully challenged the Respondent’s assertion that she was not disabled at a preliminary hearing. An amicable termination of her employment was finally negotiated, with an agreed favourable reference and substantial settlement payment. This allowed Mrs X the time to recover her health before commencing her new employment.
The Access to Justice Foundation, PO Box 64162, London WC2A 9AN. The Access to Justice Foundation is a company limited by guarantee (No. 6714178) and a registered charity (No. 1126147). Registered office: The National Pro Bono Centre, 48 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1JF.
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