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.
Attendees at the launch were visibly moved by Julius’ powerful story.
After the launch, we took Julius for a mini tour of the House of Commons and visited the spot in Westminster Hall where Nelson Mandela had spoken to both Houses of Parliament, firstly as a nobel peace prize winner, then as President of South Africa. I hadn’t realised that it was actually Mandela Day. What a great day to be there!
Congratulations to Proof Magazine’s editors Jon Robins, Rhona Friedman and Matt Foot (whom I am pictured snapping a photo of with Bambos Charalambous, new Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate, and Ruth Hayes, Director of Islington Law Centre after the launch) for producing a superb magazine.
You can purchase Proof Magazine: ‘Why Legal Aid Matters’ HERE.