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!