Public Interest Law Centre

public law | human rights | legal action

29Jun 2022

Call for help with domestic abuse campaign

29th June 2022|

Image: Leo Reynolds (CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0)

In the next few months PILC will be launching a campaign to end London local authorities’ gatekeeping of housing for domestic abuse survivors.

Housing is one of the major barriers facing women and girls fleeing abuse. Gatekeeping—the placing of bureaucratic or other obstacles in the way of those seeking statutory support—is systemic across London local authorities and has got worse over the last decade as a consequence of austerity and a chronic shortage of housing stock.

It is common for survivors to be pushed from pillar to post and experience long delays before being housed. Advocacy from a support worker is often needed for them to have any chance of accessing housing. As a result of these failures on the part of local authorities many survivors remain stuck in unsafe and unsuitable housing where they are at risk of further abuse. 

PILC is working to change this. Our new campaign aims to highlight the widespread and systemic gatekeeping that DA survivors and VAWG survivors face from local housing authorities.

As part of the campaign, we’d like to speak to survivors who’ve faced barriers when trying to access housing through their local council.

We want to tell the stories of survivors who have faced multiple obstacles in accessing housing: from facing unlawful delays to being told they do not have sufficient evidence of abuse or being required to report abuse to the police before making a housing application.  

We would like to interview survivors from the following London local authorities:

  • Brent
  • Ealing
  • Greenwich
  • Haringey
  • Kingston upon Thames
  • Merton
  • Sutton
  • Wandsworth

Please email if you or someone you support would be willing to speak to us about their experience. Please note that we intend to keep all information confidential.

25May 2022

New PILC/JCWI report on migrants in Covid-19

25th May 2022|

PILC and JCWI have today published a joint report on migrants’ experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report, entitled Unequal Impacts: How UK immigration law and policy affected migrants’ experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic, explores how UK law and government decision-making have exacerbated the impact of Covid-19 on migrants, particularly those with insecure immigration status.

The report’s areas of focus are access to justice, Home Office applications, state support, healthcare, and the asylum accommodation system, as well as immigration enforcement. Across all these areas, we highlight how the government’s anti-migrant approach has exposed migrants to increased risk from Covid-19, undermined public health efforts and introduced greater dysfunctionality into an already-broken immigration system.

The report’s authors, Ellen Fotheringham and Caitlin Boswell, urge the prime minister to ensure that the Covid-19 Inquiry examines how flaws in the immigration system have put migrants’ lives at risk during the pandemic.

The report can be downloaded here.

A full press release is here.

24May 2022

High Court win for overcrowded families

24th May 2022|

The High Court has ruled that a London council unlawfully excluded an overcrowded family from priority on its housing waiting list.

Milton Laines Roman has been living with his wife and children in a small studio apartment for over five years.

When the family applied to join Southwark council’s housing register in 2018, the council’s own housing allocation policy dictated that they should have been prioritised for council housing because they were living in overcrowded accommodation.

However, Southwark refused to prioritise the family’s application for housing, claiming that their overcrowding had been caused by their own ‘deliberate act’.

The High Court has now ruled that an applicant for council housing cannot be said to have caused their own statutory overcrowding by a ‘deliberate act’ if they lack the funds to afford more suitable housing.

Milton Laines Roman was represented at the High Court by the Public Interest Law Centre and Jamie Burton QC and Caragh Nimmo of Doughty Street Chambers.

A full press release is here.

11May 2022

We are recruiting!

11th May 2022|

PILC is recruiting for a full-time public law solicitor.

The full job advertisement is here and the recruitment pack for the role can be downloaded here

Applications should be made using this form. Applicants may also complete an equality and diversity monitoring form.

The deadline for the role is 9am on Tuesday 31st May 2022.

Please share news of this vacancy far and wide!

11May 2022

UCPI Tranche 1 Phase Three begins

11th May 2022|

On Monday 9 May the Undercover Policing Inquiry began its Tranche 1 Phase 3 hearings.

There have now been three days of opening statements, during which the Inquiry has heard fourteen separate oral opening statements. Seven days of evidence hearings will now follow.

The live evidence hearings will include our client, Lindsey German. Lindsey was active in the Socialist Workers Party throughout the period covered in this Phase.

However, the bulk of the live evidence will be provided by senior police officers who were managers in the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS).

On Tuesday 10th May James Scobie QC of Garden Court Chambers delivered an Opening Statement on behalf of Lindsey German, as well as two other core participants, Richard Chessum and ‘Mary’.

James Scobie QC of Garden Court Chambers and Piers Marquis of Doughty Street Chambers are instructed by PILC.

5May 2022

Southwark overcrowding case in court today

5th May 2022|

On Thursday 5th May we are in court for the hearing in our client’s judicial review challenge to Southwark council’s housing allocations policy.

Our client, Milton, lives with his wife, son and daughter in a privately rented studio apartment in Southwark. They are severely overcrowded and have endured extremely cramped housing conditions for almost five years. The family applied to join Southwark’s housing register in April 2018. However, Southwark has refused to prioritise the family’s application for housing. The council claims that the family’s overcrowding is the result of a ‘deliberate act’.

However, Milton and his family had no choice but to move into their current accommodation.  As Milton explains with the help of his daughter Rebecca: ‘I had to move to this flat. When we looked at other places the agencies asked us for many months’ rent in advance. I couldn’t rent a bigger house because it was too expensive.’

As Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) have highlighted this week, Southwark council have spent a large amount of money and resources defending this case – money that could have been spent on tackling exploitative landlords and supporting Southwark residents. HASL are running an email campaign demanding that Southwark remove the ‘deliberate act’ provision and stop blaming families for their poor living conditions.

We will provide a legal update on the outcome of this case over the next few weeks.

5Apr 2022

PILC to assist with Unite blacklisting inquiry 

5th April 2022|

PILC has been asked to assist with a Unite the Union inquiry into alleged historic blacklisting. 

In May 2016 Unite reached a settlement with a number of construction companies that saw 256 blacklisted workers receive a total of more than £10 million in compensation. Another trade union, the GMB, reached a similar settlement, with compensation in that case totalling around £75 million. Aside from the substantial settlements, the construction companies responsible were forced into a humiliating apology in court.  

The settlement was a major victory for the Blacklist Support Group, an organisation of rank-and-file builders that has campaigned over many years to expose blacklisting in the construction industry. The Blacklist Support Group has consistently argued that industry blacklisting, though engineered by construction bosses, could not have happened without a degree of collusion on the part of trade union officials. It is alleged that officers from Unite colluded with building-industry leaders to ensure trade union militants were prevented from securing work on building sites.  

It is to Unite’s credit that they have announced an inquiry into this alleged historic blacklisting. Alongside Paul Heron of PILC, Nick Randall QC of Matrix Chambers and John Carl Townsend of 33 Chancery Lane have been asked to assist with the inquiry. 

In a press release, Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “Under my leadership Unite is committed to uncovering the truth about allegations of union collusion with blacklisting.’’ 

“The workers affected and their families deserve to know the truth and I hope that this QC-led independent inquiry will get to the bottom of what really happened.” 

Dave Smith, secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, commented: “Blacklisted workers have long demanded action that any investigation into union collusion in blacklisting must be completely independent from Unite and their own legal team.”  

“Nick Randall QC, John Carl Townsend and the Public Interest Law Centre all have a history of championing the underdog and exposing institutional wrongdoing.’’ 

“The Blacklist Support Group applauds the appointment of such heavyweight and independently minded lawyers. It is a clear indication that this investigation will not turn a blind eye to any evidence that exposes an unhealthy culture within Unite or its predecessor unions.” 

23Mar 2022

TfL drops refusal to carry CND ad

23rd March 2022|

The draft CND advert refused by TfL

Transport for London (TfL) has agreed to reconsider an application for advertising space from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) after a threat of legal action by PILC.

CND, Britain’s most famous peace organisation, made the request for advertising space on London’s public transport network in late 2021.

The advert in question depicts a nuclear weapon broken in two by CND’s famous peace symbol. It asks the rhetorical question: ‘Why are we getting more nuclear weapons […] when we could be investing in healthcare, renewable energy, education [?]’

TfL initially asked to see copies of the advert due to concerns about the ‘political nature’ of the campaign. After CND complied, they were informed that the advert could not be carried because it ‘promotes a party political cause or electioneering’.

CND were later informed that TfL clause 2(n) prohibited ‘any party political messages’, with TfL claiming that ‘this copy conveys such message [sic]’.

On behalf of CND, PILC argued that the advertisement was not party political and that TfL’s refusal to carry it was potentially in breach of CND’s right to free expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In March 2022 TfL acknowledged that the original decision, taken by its outsourced provider Global, was incorrect and that the proposed advert was not party political in nature. CND have been invited to resubmit the advert for consideration.

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND, said:

“This is an important victory in the defence of free expression. Suggesting that tax payers’ money should be spent on healthcare rather than weapons of mass destruction is hardly a message that should be censored. Public discussion and information is vital to our democracy – and we will do our very best to defend it.”

Paul Heron, senior solicitor at PILC, said:

“The advert from CND should never have been rejected in the first place. Whilst it carried a very clear message that argued for welfare not nuclear weapons, it was not party political and it conveyed a message that would be likely to win mass support.”

8Mar 2022

We are recruiting!

8th March 2022|

PILC is recruiting for two new roles.

We are looking for a full-time public law solicitor (planning and regeneration). The recruitment pack for the role can be downloaded here and applications should be made using this form.

We are also recruiting for a solicitor/senior caseworker specialising in housing law. This role is for twelve months fixed-term.

The recruitment pack for this second role can be downloaded here and applications should be made using this form.

Applicants for both roles may also complete an equality and diversity monitoring form.

The deadline for both roles is 9am on Tuesday 29th March 2022.

Please share news of these vacancies far and wide!

21Feb 2022

Another conviction quashed in Shrewsbury 24 case

21st February 2022|

Brian Williams (image courtesy of Samantha Williams)

The Court of Appeal has quashed the conviction of a labour activist nearly fifty years after he was sent to prison for his role in the 1972 national building workers’ strike.

Brian Williams was a member of the Shrewsbury 24, a group of twenty-four union activists convicted of offences ranging from threatening behaviour to conspiracy during three trials in 1973-74

Mr Williams, who pleaded not guilty throughout his 1974 trial, was convicted of affray and unlawful assembly and sentenced to six months in prison.

Brian Williams passed away in 2013. However, in September 2021, his daughter in law, Samantha Williams, applied to the CCRC for a review of his case. In December 2021, the CCRC referred the case  to the Court of Appeal on the same ground as his 14 co-defendants.

Samantha Williams was represented in the Court of Appeal by Paul Heron of the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) and Piers Marquis of Doughty Street Chambers.

A full press release is here.

21Jan 2022

PILC calls on Khan to change estate ballot rules

21st January 2022|

Image: Focus E15

PILC has today written to Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for housing, Tom Copley, on behalf of Focus E15 housing campaign urging the mayor to take action to ensure a ‘level playing field’ in ballots on estate redevelopment

The letter calls on the mayor of London to cap local-authority spending on canvassing aimed specifically at persuading residents to assent to redevelopment proposals, and to make funding available to local residents who wish to run their own (typically anti-demolition) campaigns.

In December 2021 a resident ballot on the Carpenters Estate in East London returned a yes vote in favour of the council’s plans to demolish almost 60% of the estate.  73% of residents voted yes to the council’s proposals for redevelopment, on a 66.5% turnout.

However, Focus E15, which includes residents of the Carpenters Estate, has accused the council of spending large sums of public money to secure victory in the ballot.

According to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Request, Newham and the council’s housing company, Populo Living, spent at least £350,000 on campaigning for a Yes vote, whilst residents had no access to public funds to run a campaign for a No vote.

A full press release can be accessed here.

20Jan 2022

PILC funded to continue domestic abuse work

20th January 2022|

Image by Socialist Appeal – licensed under CC BY 2.0

We are pleased to announce that we have been awarded two grants to continue and develop our strategic work to support survivors of domestic violence.

PILC and Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) have been awarded a grant from the Strategic Legal Fund to undertake pre-litigation research into the government’s failure to provide migrant survivors of domestic abuse with access to safe accommodation.

We have also been awarded a grant from the Baring Foundation. This new funding stream will enable us to scale and expand our domestic abuse hub, which offers training, legal representation and strategic litigation at the intersection of housing, domestic abuse and racial justice. Through this project we will work with LAWRS, Ashiana Network and other specialist domestic-abuse organisations for black, minoritised and migrant women and girls.

Baring Foundation funding will also enable PILC to coordinate the Domestic Abuse Housing Forum to increase access to legal representation, share common issues and develop litigation.

We would like to express our thanks to the Baring Foundation, the Strategic Legal Fund, as well as our frontline partners.