Public Interest Law Centre

public law | human rights | legal action

4Aug 2019

Brimstone House complaint and update

4th August 2019|

Residents of Brimstone House formed a powerful deputation to the Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and the full Labour council meeting at Stratford Town Hall on Monday 15 July 2019.a

The deputation to a submission of a legal complaint, compiled with the Public Interest Law Centre supported by Focus E15 campaign, regarding the appalling conditions of the temporary and emergency accommodation in the Newham Council-owned building in Victoria Street, Brimstone House.

The compliant has been sent to every member of Newham Council and demands immediate action to remedy unsuitable housing conditions and to stop the length of time that people spend in temporary accommodation in  many with young children. The accommodation is not overcrowded, but is in disrepair and the atmosphere many residents say is like a jail. Residents of Brimstone House are often told they will stay for 3-6 months, however the average length of stay is 1.5 years.

The legal complaint compiled by PILC, with the active assistance of Focus E15 campaigners and volunteers from the UCL Legal Advice Clinic is comprised of in-depth witness statements from 19 residents, an architectural report on the suitability of the building, recommendations from residents and Focus E15 Housing Campaign on what needs to be done in the short term, but also long term strategic policies and campaigns.

More information about the deputation and the ongoing campaign can be found here

The residents and campaigners are due to meet with the Mayor of Newham on Tuesday 6th August 2019 to further press their demands.

18Jul 2019

Closure of Lambeth Law Centre – statement from the Public Interest Law Centre

18th July 2019|

We’re sad to announce that Lambeth Law Centre (LLC), which has hosted the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) since its inception as a law unit in September 2016, is closing due to insolvency.

PILC is currently taking steps to protect and continue the important work that we do. We are in the process of finalising a move to a new host organisation. We anticipate that PILC will be able to carry on working with minimal disruption to our clients and partners.

PILC was originally established to develop strategic litigation. On behalf of clients and campaigners we scored some significant victories for campaign groups and working class communities in defending them against the hostile environment and austerity.

We take solace from the solid links we have built with campaign groups and other lawyers who see the value of our work.

We’re grateful for your continuing support and look forward to being able to provide further updates soon.

1Jul 2019

Elephant & Castle Judicial review rilled up hearing this month starting the 17th!

1st July 2019|

A coalition of groups has called a solidarity protest on Wednesday 17th July 2019 outside the High Court.

The Public Interest law Centre is instructed in a Judicial Review challenge relating to the proposed devellopment at the Elephant & Castle.

The regeneration has already lost over a thousand council homes, from the Elephant’s demolished Heygate estate, a scandal in a borough with desperate housing need. Now, shopping centre owner and property developer Delancey has won permission to demolish the local shopping centre.  They also have permission to build new shops and nearly a thousand homes, but only 116, at best, will be social rented – and workicng class people will have to wait 10 years to see if they are built as promised.

Jerry Flynn our client is  challenging Delancey’s planning permission through a Judicial Review.  We want the permission quashed and then  a development scheme that provides homes and shops that are truly affordable for local working class people.

The rolled up hearing – permisison and sunstantive hearing – is due to take place on the 17th and 18th July 2019.

27Jun 2019

News about volunteering

27th June 2019|

We rely on the support of enthusiastic volunteers who are interested in the issues that the Public Interest Law Centre tackles. From public law to civil actions against public authorities we are developing our work and in the future we are hoping to develop a volunteer prorgramme.

Unfortunately at the current time we are are not taking on volunteers – this is due to a space and capacity issues.

We ask that if you are interested in volunteering with us that you watch this space as we hope to be announce a volunteer programme in the near future.

15Jun 2019

Sathananthan (private prosecutor) v Brigadier Fernando

15th June 2019|

ready for court?

It is now confirmed that the above case has been listed for Tuesday 6th August 2019 at Westminster Magistrates Court.

At this stage we act for the private prosecutors, although at this stage the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have indicated an interest in taking over the case. We have made submissions on behalf of the private prosecutors and requested that they do not take the case over.

2Jun 2019

Challenge to the Secretary of State for the Home Department

2nd June 2019|

The Secretary of State had failed to publish any, or any adequate application process for those who needed to apply for support under paragraph 9 Schedule 10 Immigration Act 2016.

Judicial review proceedings were brought on behalf of our client (a Syrian national who would have been eligible for support under that provision) Evidence from Hackney Winter Night Shelter, ASAP, Detention Action and Bail for Immigration Detainees had been relied upon in support of the challenge. Due to the legal action brought by the Public Interest Law Centre  the Home Office have now published a policy document providing additional guidance as to how an applicant may apply for accommodation under Para 9 Sch 10

This climb down by the Home Office will assist hundreds of people. Costs to be awarded.

6May 2019

Adjournment of Sathananthan (private prosecutor) v Brigadier Fernando

6th May 2019|

On Friday 3rd May 2019 the Court decided that the case required a further adjournment. The Defence requested this in order to ensure that all documentation is secured from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The adjournment is for a period of 28 days.

We will keep the news page up to date on further developments.

8Apr 2019

New leaflet – defending the rights of EEA nationals

8th April 2019|

The Public Interest Law Centre took the Home Office to court in 2017 and ended operations that saw Immigration Enforcement arrest and deport European people who were sleeping rough.

We have expanded our work to monitor and defend the rights of European nationals who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or vulnerably housed.

We continue our work with EEA nationals around issues concerning

  • Settled Status applications and info on forthcoming changes
  • Compensation claims against Home Office for unlawful detention
  • Welfare and Housing rights legal challenges
  • Economic and Social rights during Brexit
  • NHS Charging for European nationals

Our new leaflet is off to the printers – if you need copies for your agency or a client drop us a line at

24Mar 2019

Funding the legal challenge – Elephant and Castle

24th March 2019|

A coalition of local people and groups are fighting for fairer regeneration at the Elephant and Castle – a regeneration that was supposed to deliver jobs and homes for local people, but is doing the exact opposite.

The Public Interest Law Centre is instructed in this case and has filed an application for permission to proceed to a Judicial Review.

The regeneration has already lost over a thousand council homes, from the Elephant’s demolished Heygate estate, a scandal in a borough with desperate housing need. Now, shopping centre owner and property developer Delancey has won permission to demolish the local shopping centre.  They also have permission to build new shops and nearly a thousand homes, but only 116, at best, will be social rented – and we will have to wait nearly ten years to get them.

Southwark’s Council’s planning committee was misled as to the maximum amount of affordable housing the scheme could viably provide. While Delancey said it could only afford to provide 116 social rented units we now know that with Mayor’s funding they could give us another 42. That’s 42 families deprived of somewhere decent and affordable to live.

Jerry Flynn our client is  challenging Delancey’s planning permission through a Judicial Review.  We want the permission quashed and then  a development scheme that provides homes and shops that are truly affordable for local working class people.

At least £10000 must be raised to be able to mount this vital challenge and for that we need your help. All funds will go towards the legal costs of the case. Follow the link to the crowdjustice page here

Please donate to our appeal, any amount big or small!

Please share this page with you friends and contacts!

Any donation you can make will help in this crucial fight to make London a city where the needs of our diverse communities come before the profits of offshore property developers.

17Mar 2019

Baring Foundation Grant

17th March 2019|

We are pleased to announce that the Baring Foundation through their  Strengthening Civil Society programme has awarded eight new grants, one of which has been awarded to the Public Interest Law Centre.

The funding round is intended to support the work of expert legal organisations, who work or want to develop further as ‘hubs’ for legal action.

Along with seven other organisations we will be provided with  £100,000 over a three year period to develop our strategic litigation to assist victims of domestic violence. Our work intends to defend, enforce and promote the housing rights of Domestic Violence survivors through free legal representation, capacity-strengthening of the voluntary sector and strategic litigation.

In total eighty two  expressions of interest were received by the Baring Foundation, and so we are thrilled to be an organisation acknowledged for our work in this field, and recognising our joint work with Solace Women’s Aid.

Helen Mowatt solicitor at the Public Interest Law Centre said:

“We are thrilled to receive this funding. It acknowledges the case work and litigation we already provide to many victims of domestic violence.  This will allow us to expand our legal action and strategic litigation in this area, and we thanks the baring Foundation for this award.”

We are also thrilled that our colleagues in Scotland from Just Rights have also secured a grant to set up the Scottish Public Interest Law Centre. Imitation is  the best form of flattery

1Mar 2019

One step back, hopefully two steps forward

1st March 2019|

On Friday 1st March 2019 the Chief Magistrate of England and Wales,  ruled that Brigadier Priyanka Fernando, a former Sri Lankan Defence Attaché, will face a retrial on 7th May 2019.

On 4th February 2018  Brigadier Fernando was filmed, whilst on duty in his military uniform, making  a number of cut throat gestures to the peaceful protestors who were situated opposite the Sri Lankan High Commission. The protest had been called by Tamil Solidarity.

Three protesters instructed the Public Interest Law Centre through the International Centre for Prevention and Prosecution of Genocide (ICPPG).

There have been a number of subsequent hearings:

On 21st January 2019, Brigadier Fernando was convicted (in his absence) of threatening the protestors and a warrant for his arrest was issued. The warrant was subsequently withdrawn

On 1st February 2019 and later the 1st March 2019 arguments were heard that Brigadier Fernando actions were covered by indefinite immunity. The argument being they were within his ‘official duties’ to monitor anti-Sri Lankan activities and report them to the Sri Lankan High Commission. In reliance of this the Defence supplied to the Court his job description. That provides the Brigadier was officially authorised by the Sri Lankan Government to “Monitor any anti-Sri Lankan activities in the UK and report to the High Commissioner and through her to the Intelligent Agencies in Sri Lanka” – therefore any actions taken – presumably slit throat gestures were also authorised. This argument was rejected by the Chief Magistrate.

“It was not part of Brigadier Fernando’s job description to make the alleged cut-throat gestures on the three occasions, it could not be any part of the mission’s function and therefore the Minister Counsellor’s behaviour is not given immunity by Article 39(2) of the Vienna Convention. The Brigadier cannot call on the residual immunity that he would have been able to had the acts been performed in the exercise of this functions.”

The Chief Magistrate also noted that the job description required Mr Fernando to “…strictly adhere” to “…personal behaviour and professional standards.”

The Defence then made an application under s.142 of the Magistrates’ Court Act to have the conviction set aside. The case was adjourned to 15th March 2019 to deal with that application.

At the hearing on 15th March 2019, the Defence argued that there had been procedural mistakes in this case which meant that the conviction was invalid. The Chief Magistrate agreed. That was largely on the mistakes made by the Court in its failure to disclose a letter from the Sri Lankan government to the private prosecutors and presumably the Defence. As a result the conviction was quashed.

A retrial will be held at 2pm, 7th May 2019 at Westminster Magistrates Court.

We take this opportunity to thank the three private prosecutors, the ICPPG, Tamil solidarity and our counsel Peter Carter QC  (Doughty Street Chambers) leading Shanthi Sivakumaran (Lamb Building)

2Feb 2019

The Public Interest Law Centre acts for Mr Majuran Sathananthan in this private prosecution against Andige Priyanda Indunil Fernando (‘Brigadier Fernando’)

2nd February 2019|

On 21st January 2019 Brigadier Fernando was convicted in his absence and an arrest warrant was issued. The offences of which he was convicted were serious examples of their kind, and committed on the streets of London.

On 1st February 2019 the Chief Magistrate asked for the a hearing having withdrawn the arrest warrant. The purpose of the hearing was to consider whether Brigadier Fernando benefited from diplomatic immunity.

It is our view that the Brigadier no longer enjoys diplomatic immunity for actions committed in his private capacity having left his post further to article 39(2) of the Vienna Convention.

The Brigadier and his legal team did not appear at hearings on the 13 March 2018, 8 August 2018, 9 November 2018 or 21 January 2019. However a legal team has now been engaged by the Brigadier and they were at court on the 1st February 2019.

The Public Interest Law Centre along with our counsel agreed with the Court that the matter of diplomatic immunity should be argued at a full hearing on the 1st March 2019. This will allow the Brigadiers legal team to present further legal submissions to the Court.

Recent press coverage of the case can be read here in the Morning Star and the Guardian.