‘They tried to get lawyers’: Devastating cuts to legal aid prevented Grenfell Tower residents accessing advice over safety concerns
Legal profession offers pro bono support to blaze victims
Grenfell Tower’s residents tried to obtain legal advice over safety concerns but were prevented from doing so due to devastating cuts to legal aid.
Pilgrim Tucker, who has worked with the local campaign organisation Grenfell Action Group, made the damning claim yesterday evening during an emotionally-charged Newsnight.
Having cited a number of alleged structural and maintenance issues with the Kensington tower block, Tucker (pictured bottom right) said: “They [residents] can’t afford lawyers. They tried to get lawyers but because of the legal aid cuts they couldn’t get lawyers.”
Those saying that the #GrenfellTower fire had nothing to do with politics need to see this clip pic.twitter.com/NKWTTlhCu8
— The Pileus (@thepileus) June 14, 2017
Her point resonated on Twitter. Daphne Romney QC, a barrister at Cloisters specialising in employment law, tweeted:
People in #GrenfellTower wanted to take on the landlords re fears about fire but they couldn;t afford it and there's no legal aid #newsnight
— Daphne Romney QC (@DaphneRomneyQC) June 14, 2017
Elsewhere, Laura Clenshaw — editorial manager at the Solicitors Regulation Authority — wrote:
I am so ashamed to be part of a society that has actively ignored + refused to engage w its most vulnerable again and again.
— Laura Clenshaw ? (@L_Clenshaw) June 14, 2017
Meanwhile, Tom, an ex-lawyer according to his Twitter bio, said:
The legal aid cuts meant the #GrenfellTower action group couldn't use the courts to force improvements. This just gets worse. #Newsnight
— Tom (@tomtq6) June 14, 2017
In an attempt to save around £350 million a year, the government introduced a series of significant changes to civil legal aid in England and Wales. This meant certain types of cases — including divorce, welfare, employment and housing (except in limited circumstances) — were no longer eligible for free legal support. The cuts, introduced back in April 2013, were strongly opposed by professional legal bodies and lawyers alike.
Grenfell Tower, home to around 600 people, caught fire during the early hours of Wednesday morning. Hundreds of firefighters and 45 fire engines were involved in efforts to control the blaze as it ripped through the 27-storey building. At the time of publication, 17 people have been confirmed dead and dozens more injured.
Clearly moved by the disaster and keen to help in anyway they can, lawyers are now offering free legal assistance to those affected. Jolyon Maugham QC, a tax specialist at Devereux Chambers, instigated the appeal, tweeting:
If residents of Grenfell Tower want legal help with compensation and responsibility many lawyers will be happy to help. For free. I will.
— Jo Maugham QC (@JolyonMaugham) June 15, 2017
A flood of other solicitors and barristers quickly followed:
Housing not my field, but plenty of commercial contract/tort experience if you need a baby junior.
— Ben Woolgar (@benjywoolgar) June 15, 2017
I'm retired but happy to help with any support I can.
— Hilary Hendy (@hilaryhendy) June 15, 2017
Me too."@JolyonMaugham: If residents of Grenfell Tower want legal help with …..many lawyers will be happy to help. For free. I will."
— GRSC (@BarristerGRSC) June 15, 2017
Lawyers willing to act for clients on a pro bono basis should contact North Kensington Law Centre on 020 8969 7473 or email here.
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