WHAT LAW CENTRES DO










 

Law centres have been among the most prolific in developing new remedies for those in disadvantage. For example, law centres originally developed the ‘reasonableness defence’ and the use of minutes for recall of decree (protecting tenants from losing their homes). Remedies for tenants and children living in damp housing conditions were promoted and developed by Glasgow law centres (in particular enforcing repairs and child asthma remedies).

Law Centres undertake a very large proportion of the representation undertaken in Scotland - including judicial review in homelessness cases, defending evictions, representation in mental health hearings, representation at employment and benefit tribunals, criminal injuries compensation appeal panels and immigration adjudicator hearings.

Law centres do not keep what they learn to themselves - they provide free or low cost educational training on a large scale, as well as writing an extensive number of leaflets, and several legal textbooks.

 

GOVAN LAW CENTRE - EXAMPLES OF WORK

    (At 26 February 2001)

  • At any one time, Govan Law Centre has between 700 and 1,000 ‘files’ open on behalf of clients. These are substantial on-going legal matters requiring representation at court or legal assistance, which cannot be dealt with quickly or by simple advice. The bulk of cases are within Greater Govan, but a proportion is Citywide, with a number being Scotland-wide (typically where a client has a legal need which no one else is able, or prepared to meet). We also provide a high volume of telephone and 'one-off bits' of advice, as well as a free legal educational programme.

  • Presently representing 70 workers before employment tribunals in Glasgow for unpaid holiday pay, unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and redundancy disputes.

  • Currently pursuing a large volume of housing law litigation before the Sheriff Court and the Court of Session — disrepair cases, compensation and reparation for ill-health, environmental health litigation, home loss aid disturbance payments, allocation and homelessness cases; defending a significant volume of eviction actions.

  • This month successful in a test case before the Inner House of the Court of Session with respect to the rights of homeless hostel residents. The law centre has two further test cases coming before the Supreme Court this year - one concerning the use of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 by tenants living in damp housing and the second case on a security of tenure issue concerning housing association tenants who had previously been local authority ‘secure tenants’.

  • Human Rights – Govan Law Centre is presently in the process of  challenging the Housing Benefit Review Board system (which determines housing benefit claims and awards) in terms of non-compliance with Article 6, Schedule 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (subject to civil legal aid being awarded). We are also in the process of challenging the use of the mandatory eviction 'Ground 8' (three months arrears and you are evicted) by housing associations (in the course of an eviction case in Clydebank); upon the basis the practice is discriminatory between housing association secure and assured tenants.

  • Our Children’s Rights Project currently provides on-going free legal representation at Children’s Hearings and was recently successful in a number of school exclusion sheriff court cases, resulting in a City-wide rethink in appeals policy.

  • A large volume of free community organization work is currently undertaken — for example, setting-up legal structures for community organizations supported by the local Social Inclusion Partnership; as well as incorporation/charitable status work for community groups (requiring to incorporate to protect management volunteers or obtain charitable status) to access varied sources of funding. At any time we support a wide range of community groups, who work to tackle local unemployment or develop access to lifelong learning, address a variety of poverty and health issues and so forth.

 

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GLC's Principal Solicitor's speech at the relaunch of The Firm magazine in Glasgow (flash video).