Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

News

Judicial Review and Legal Aid

Following their response to the consultation on judicial review, the Ministry of Justice have produced civil legal aid regulations to implement the proposed changes with regard to payment of legal aid in such cases. However we have noticed that the regulations do not replicate the MoJ’s proposals. We trust this is a mistake. Submissions on this need to be made by Tuesday March 18th and can be sent via Nicola Mackintosh of the Legal Aid Practitioners group: Nicola.Mackintosh@Macklaw.co.uk

Still Behind Closed Doors

Amongst other things, the MoJ consultation Judicial review: proposals for further reform proposes the withdrawal of legal aid for appeals under sections 288 & 289 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. CLP put in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with regard to this. . We were not satisfied with the initial response and appealed that decision – see November E Bulletin ‘ Behind Closed Doors’ and the Travellers Times blog:
http://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/blog.aspx?n=a342f1d5-8241-4aaf-a1d8-e0cfec48eb5f&h=False&c=f1b1c82c-0f3c-4edf-98cd-502ea80ed8fa&

We have now had the response to that appeal which is reproduced here (see attachment to this article).

Exceptional Funding

In terms of those areas that are out of scope for legal aid, the Government said people could try and get ‘exceptional funding’ under section 10 of the Legal Aid Act 2012 if otherwise there might be a breach of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to a fair hearing). For example, housing benefit is now out of scope for legal aid but a housing benefit problem might be the reason for rent arrears that have led to a possession action.

Gypsy Woman Wins in Court of Appeal

This case concerns a planning appeal in the Court of Appeal (CoA).

The Claimant below (the respondent to this appeal), Charmaine Moore, is a single parent who owns the site she lives on. She lives there in a mobile home with her three children, aged 14, 13 and 7.  She and her family are Romani Gypsies.

Before she moved to the appeal site in July 2010, the Claimant and her children had lived for some 12 years in a caravan situated on the front drive of a rented Housing Association property at Orpington.  The house was used only as a day room and the family always slept in the caravan.  The Claimant had “an aversion to living in bricks and mortar”.

Visit to CLP by Lord Low

The Low Commission are investigating the impact of the Legal Aid reforms and making suggestions as to future strategy for legal advice.  Lord Low and two members of the Commission, Steve Hynes and Vicky Ling, visited CLP on Thursday 29 August 2013 and met with the three Partners and Craig Keenan from the Housing Team.  CLP made a number of suggestions as to how things might be improved and all parties agreed that the meeting was very useful. CLP’s letter to Lord Low is attached to this article along with its enclosure.

The draft report from the Low Commission which is currently out for further consultation until 30 September can be accessed at  http://www.lowcommission.org.uk/Can-you-help

Children Reprieved from Life in Tower

A young Birmingham family  have finally won their hard fought battle to be  moved out of a tower block owned by Birmingham City Council after a court was asked to consider the council’s refusal to re-house the family.

Mrs. Warsame, a single mother, was worried that her children would fall from the windows of their 9th floor flat owned by Birmingham City Council at Thames Tower, Nechells,  because they could  open the windows. She also had difficulty managing the stairs when the lifts broke down and on a previous occasion had miscarried twins following  a fall on the stairs. At times Mrs Warsame had to leave the children alone in the flat while she struggled up the stairs with her baby and shopping and this presented a double jeopardy.

The day before Mrs Warsame’s appeal was due to be heard, following a two year fight the council agreed to a court order which confirms that the family will be treated as homeless and that the council accept a legal duty to ensure that suitable alternative accommodation will be secured immediately.

The decision follows a number of cases where children have been put at risk from living in high rise flats. Earlier this month a toddler died after falling from the window of a block of flats in Bristol.

A delighted Mrs Warsame said that she had “carried on the  fight for the sake of the children”.

Her solicitor, Mike McIlvaney, a partner at Community Law Partnership, specialising in housing law said:

Councils must think carefully about continuing to leave or place young familes with children in tower blocks. It is no answer to say  that budget constraints and limited resources are to blame when young lives are at risk. The council have a moral and legal duty to consider the reasonableness of the accommodation they are providing. Anyone in a similar situation to Mrs. Warsame may wish to obtain legal advice.”