20Oct 2020

PILC responds to IRAL call for evidence

2020-10-20T14:54:00+01:0020th October 2020|

PILC has this week submitted evidence to the Independent Review of Administrative Law (IRAL)

The IRAL has been set up by the government ‘to determine how well or effectively judicial review balances the legitimate interest in citizens being able to challenge the lawfulness of executive action with the role of the executive in carrying on the business of government, both locally and centrally.’ The government says it wants to prevent lawyers from ‘conducting politics by other means’.

Our view is that the establishment of the IRAL is itself politically motivated and that its findings are likely to be used to legitimate an attack on judicial review.

PILC’s response to the consultation is informed by the experience of frontline practitioners: solicitors and caseworkers supporting those whose basic rights have been infringed. Twelve years of austerity, punitive immigration policies and regressive changes to an already-strict legal aid system have made it increasingly difficult for working-class, racialised and other dispossessed people to access justice.

As we make clear in our submission, any discussion of changes to the judicial review system needs to be couched in an awareness of this broader context.

Our submission can be read and downloaded here.

19Oct 2020

PILC & others protest ‘spycops’ bill

2020-10-19T09:59:52+01:0019th October 2020|

Last week PILC joined trade unions, MPs and campaigners in signing a statement expressing concerns over the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) bill ahead of its third reading in parliament.

Among other measures, the bill seeks to grant undercover agents the right to commit crimes in the course of their work.

The joint statement on the CHIS bill can be read in full here.

28Sep 2020

Operations manager and intern wanted

2020-09-28T15:41:02+01:0028th September 2020|

We are recruiting for two new roles.

We are looking for an Operations Manager to manage the law centre’s administrative functions. The postholder will support PILC in developing policies and procedures that ensure the highest standards of service, as well as strengthening the organisation’s core.

Click here for more details of this role, including deadlines and interview date.

A job description and person specification can be downloaded here.

We are also recruiting a Legal Campaigning Intern (Violence Against Women and Girls). This paid, one-day-a-week role involves supporting a campaign to highlight the difficulties faced by domestic abuse survivors when trying to access housing and homelessness services.

More information about this paid internship can be downloaded here.

14Sep 2020

PILC and HASL launch open letter to Southwark

2020-09-14T15:46:31+01:0014th September 2020|

PILC, along with Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) and over thirty other signatories, has written to Southwark Council about the local authority’s treatment of overcrowded families.

PILC and HASL have been supporting a number of severely overcrowded families who have been blamed and penalised by Southwark for ‘deliberately’ causing their overcrowding. In some cases, the has council demoted families to Band 4 (the very bottom of the housing register) where they will never be able to access the permanent council housing they desperately need. These practices continued during the peak of the Covid 19 pandemic, when the heightened vulnerabilities of those living in overcrowded housing were clear.

Our open letter highlights how the council’s policies and practices on overcrowding penalise households from low-income and BAME and migrant backgrounds, who often simply cannot afford less overcrowded housing, as well as facing additional barriers such as the government’s racist Right to Rent policy.

The letter calls on Southwark to remove the concept of ‘deliberate act’ from its policy, and to stop arguing that families who have been forced to reside in severely overcrowded conditions have ‘deliberately worsened their circumstances.’ Instead of fuelling a culture of blame and refusal, Southwark must support low income, BAME and migrant families according to their housing need.

A full press release can be downloaded here.

5Sep 2020

PILC is 4!

2020-09-07T12:54:47+01:005th September 2020|

We started out as a public law unit at Lambeth Law Centre with one case. We were instructed by 2 anti-racism activists, a former Labour MP and a national anti-racist organisation – Youth against Racism in Europe (YRE) – to represent them in the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI). We had one desk, and access to a phone and a photocopier.

The aim of the unit, and now of the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC), was, and is, to work with individuals and campaigns to bring challenges against public bodies. This might be national or local government, or any organisation carrying out a public function. However, we have also sought to use legal action as part of a wider campaigning strategy, working alongside grassroots activists. Over the last four years we have collaborated with some amazing people and organisations: Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL); Up the Elephant; Solace Women’s Aid; Save Southall Town Hall; the Monitoring Group; Southall Black Sisters; and many more.

In our short life we and our clients have changed the law. Examples can be found all over this website. We have had a big impact both in terms of assisting individual clients, and supporting groups and grassroots campaigns. We want our approach to strategic litigation to be both cutting edge and, crucially, to form part of an overall strategy to build the campaigns and movements who instruct us.

We are now building our capacity in other areas of work, including actions against the police and planning law. We are also looking to bring challenges to the gentrification of working-class spaces.

We recognise a need to research and publish reports. We understand that some laws cannot be changed. Through research we hope to both build strategic litigation and shine a light on unjust law and practice. This is crucial to our work as we continue to oppose inequality, structural racism, sexism, and anti-working class practices.

In its four years of existence, PILC has had a tough journey. We have had four offices. We have had our host law centre in Lambeth go into liquidation and sadly take our money with them. We have had to rebuild, refocus and work hard. However, through the dedication of our staff team, our principles, our socialist and progressive politics, we have been able to weather the storm.

In the next year we hope to consolidate and slowly build. For now, we want to say a big thanks to the many people who have supported us so far: clients, barristers, campaigners, chambers, funders and social justice organisations. Solidarity!

17Jul 2020

COVID-19 and the need for a Public Inquiry.

2020-07-17T08:07:28+01:0017th July 2020|

On the 9th July 2020 on behalf of the Law Centres Network, and with the support of Amnesty International and over 70 grassroots and civil society organisations, we wrote to the Prime Minister demanding that a Public Inquiry is called to urgently consider lessons that can be learned from the Government’s handling of COVID 19.  

On the 15th July 2020, and in response to a question from the leader of Liberal Democrats – Ed Davey MP regarding the need for a public inquiry the Prime Minister said: 

“As I have told the House several times, I do not believe that now, in the middle of combating the pandemic as we are, is the right moment to devote huge amounts of official time to an inquiry, but of course we will seek to learn the lessons of the pandemic in the future, and certainly we will have an independent inquiry into what happened.” 

Whilst we welcome the commitment to an independent inquiry, important questions remain.  

What type of Inquiry does the Prime Minister have in mind? 

Any independent inquiry needs to be a statutory public inquiry and be chaired by a Judge sitting with a panel of experts in public health, race, disability and social care.  

Central to such an inquiry must be the families who have lost loved ones. It must involve health and public sector workers, and their trade unions. It must also hear from civil society organisations including law centres, campaign groups, and others on the frontline. 

Contrary to the Prime Minister’s statement, an Inquiry cannot wait. Echoing the demands of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families Justice Group, we call on the Government to: 

i)      Convene an immediate public inquiry within the next 3 months into the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Such an Inquiry is necessary to prepare for a potential second wave of the virus, to learn lessons and ensure that the necessary steps are taken to prevent a further crisis in health and care provision;  

ii)     Commit to a longer-term, independent public inquiry in order to adequately address the many concerns not only outlined in our letter of the 9th July 2020 but also those raised by the groups and organisations who have supported it, as well as the Covid-19 Bereaved Families Justice Group; and 

iii)   Finally, both the immediate and long-term inquiry must be independent, properly resourced and chaired by a Judge, but also employ a panel of experts with a wide range experiences of understanding surrounding issues of racism, disabilities, frontline and low paid work as well as public health and social care. There would need to be full and frank disclosure of all the evidence, including statements and live evidence from Ministers so that they may be properly held to account. 

We are not convinced by the Prime Minister’s vague promise of an Inquiry at some point in the future. Not only is his statement lacking in detail, but crucially lacks the urgency that is required in order to ensure that lessons are learned, and adequate measures are put in place to prevent further unnecessary loss of life prior to a second wave.