LALYs 2020: Legal aid’s ‘unsung heroes’ celebrated

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LALYs 2020: Legal aid’s ‘unsung heroes’ celebrated

The work of a prison law specialist known for his work in support of the victims of miscarriages of justice has been recognised at this year’s Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards 2020. There was a strong showing at the Legal Aid Practitioners Group’s annual awards for housing lawyers with Siobhan Taylor Wood of Merseyside Law Centre and Simon Mullings of Edwards Duthie Shamash, both Justice Gap contributors, winning the social welfare and housing categories respectively.

This year’s ceremony was live-streamed on YouTube and cohosted by domestic abuse campaigner David Challen and Anna Jones for Sky News (see below). Mike McIlvaney, of Community Law Partnership and pictured above, won the outstanding achievement for his work on behalf of a single mother from Birmingham declared ‘intentionally homeless’ after she fell into arrears as a result of a £34 shortfall between housing benefit and rent. McIlvaney endured ‘a five year battle’ to secure legal aid for his client, Terryann Samuel, in what turned out to be a landmark case. You can read Simon Mulling’s account of the case and what housing lawyers have called the Legal Aid Agency’s culture of refusal here.

‘There are so many unsung heroes doing vital work in an incredibly tough environment and they deserved their contributions to be recognised,’ commented Simon Davis, president of the Law Society. ‘But what the beleaguered legal aid practitioners need even more is for the legal aid system to be properly resourced and funded by the government.’

Dean Kingham, of Swain & Co, is currently involved in a challenge on behalf of prisoner Gary Warner whose case has been rejected by the Criminal Cases Review Commission arguing that the body is not sufficiently independent of the Ministry of Justice. He was praised by the LALY judges for his work was described as ‘gritty, difficult and rarely popular’. ‘He is relentlessly unafraid to put his head above the parapet and determined to protect prisoners’ rights, and hold the executive to account,’ they said.

South West London Law Centres, the largest law centre which last year helped more than 8,000 people, won the legal aid firm/not-for-profit agency category and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants won the legal aid team.


 

Winners

  • Mental capacity: Sheree Green, Greenchurch Legal
  • Criminal defence: Philippa Southwell, Birds Solicitors
  • Family: Kate Hammond, Miles & Partners
  • Immigration and asylum: Tori Sicher, Sutovic Hartigan Solicitors
  • Legal aid barrister: James Stark, Garden Court North
  • Legal aid team: Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
  • Legal aid firm/not-for-profit: South West London Law Centres
  • Regional legal aid firm/not-for-profit: KRW Law
  • Legal aid newcomer: Siobhan Taylor-Ward, Merseyside Law Centre
  • Public law: Dean Kingham, Swain & Co
  • Social welfare: Simon Mullings, Edwards Duthie Shamash