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‘They tried to get lawyers’: Devastating cuts to legal aid prevented Grenfell Tower residents accessing advice over safety concerns

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Legal profession offers pro bono support to blaze victims

Grenfell Tower in West London

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.”

Her point resonated on Twitter. Daphne Romney QC, a barrister at Cloisters specialising in employment law, tweeted:

Elsewhere, Laura Clenshaw — editorial manager at the Solicitors Regulation Authority — wrote:

Meanwhile, Tom, an ex-lawyer according to his Twitter bio, said:

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:

A flood of other solicitors and barristers quickly followed:

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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57 Comments

Anonymous

So many idiots on here.

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Pat Gravell

Did you check the Legal Aid rules before you wrote this? I’d be the first to criticise LASPO for taking certain housing problems out of scope of Legal Aid but as I know safety issues remain in scope. Read LASPO 2012 part 1 para 35 ”
Risk to health or safety in rented home

35(1)Civil legal services provided to an individual in relation to the removal or reduction of a serious risk of harm to the health or safety of the individual or a relevant member of the individual’s family where—
(a)the risk arises from a deficiency in the individual’s home,

(b)the individual’s home is rented or leased from another person, and

(c)the services are provided with a view to securing that the other person makes arrangements to remove or reduce the risk.

Exclusions

(2)Sub-paragraph (1) is subject to—

(a)the exclusions in Part 2 of this Schedule, with the exception of paragraphs 6 and 8 of that Part, and

(b)the exclusion in Part 3 of this Schedule.

Definitions

(3)For the purposes of this paragraph—

(a)a child is a relevant member of an individual’s family if the individual is the child’s parent or has parental responsibility for the child;

(b)an adult (“A”) is a relevant member of an individual’s family if—

(i)they are relatives (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or cohabitants, and

(ii)the individual’s home is also A’s home.

(4)In this paragraph—

“adult” means a person aged 18 or over;
“building” includes part of a building;
“child” means a person under the age of 18;
“cohabitant” has the same meaning as in Part 4 of the Family Law Act 1996 (see section 62(1) of that Act);
“deficiency” means any deficiency, whether arising as a result of the construction of a building, an absence of maintenance or repair, or otherwise;
“harm” includes temporary harm;
“health” includes mental health;
“home”, in relation to an individual, means the house, caravan, houseboat or other vehicle or structure that is the individual’s only or main residence, together with any garden or ground usually occupied with it.”

So as far as I understand it this remained in scope subject to the usual “means test”. Finding Legal aid solicitors with the capacity to take on cases is another matter but please do not perpetuate the myth that risks to safety in a rented home are out of scope of Legal Aid as this may deter others with similar problems from trying to get a lawyer. My comments relate to getting a home made safe, not about obtaining compensation after the event, just to be clear.

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Anonymous

As a South African I watch with dismay.
Our country (South Africa) may be the laughing stock of the world because of its politics but we still have standards . Before a major structure is designed and built a Professional Engineer (equivalent to a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers) must take FULL responsibility for it. It is on his or her head if anything goes wrong. The Engineer is held responsible for the design and construction in ALL disciplines. Had this been the case with the London Tower Block nobody would be passing the buck.

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