We have joined forces with the Justice Gap, the University College London’s Centre for Access to Justice and the Hackney Council of Voluntary Services to work on a major public legal education (PLE) project aimed at young people explaining legal rights and demystifying the law.
The initiative (called Mind the JusticeGap) – backed by human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield QC and the former shadow justice secretary Lord Willy Bach – involves young people in Hackney working with UCL law students overseen by lawyers at HCLC, HCVS and the JusticeGap.
Mind the JusticeGap will be an online guide about the law aimed at young people informed directly by the experience of young people in schools and colleges in the borough.
‘We are proud to be taking part in the ‘Mind the Justice Gap’ project,’ commented HCLC’s manager Sean Canning. ‘Our Law Centre has served the local community for nearly 40 years and assisting our local young people to reach their full potential is one of our key priorities. It will help give our young people more confidence to deal with the main legal hurdles they regularly face– be it stop and search, employment issues or housing.’
Demystifying the law
The aims of the Mind the JusticeGap project are:
- to explain to young people key concepts about the law and how they relate to their lives;
- to encourage an understanding that the law can make a positive contribution to the lives of young people and is not simply something that they come into conflict with;
- to demystify the law; and
- encourage the view that a career as a lawyer is one that is available to people from all backgrounds.
The content of the guide will be decided by drawing on a series of events in schools and colleges in the borough. The project will match UCL law students, who will write the content, with lawyers at Hackney Community Law Centre and the Youth Programmes Team of the Hackney Council of Voluntary Services. The lawyers will check the accuracy of content and the JusticeGap will provide editorial control ensuring content of the guide.
The guide will also be available through the www.thejusticegap.com and www.hclc.org.uk. The idea is that it will also form the basis for a resource for students to learn more their rights and the law in local schools and colleges.
The project will be overseen by Jon Robins, editor of www.thejusticegap.com and patron of HCLC; Jacqueline Kinghan, director of clinical legal education at UCL’s faculty of law; Deji Adeoshun of the Hackney Council of Voluntary Services and Miranda Grell, interim development officer at Hackney Community Law Centre.
‘UCL Faculty of Laws are delighted to be partnering with the JusticeGap and Hackney Community Law Centre on such a worthwhile project. The grassroots approach of working together with young people in Hackney is an excellent opportunity for our students to confront access to justice issues on the ground and put their legal knowledge to good use in the community’ said Jacqueline Kinghan.
‘At UCL we highly value the importance of public legal education and Mind the Justice Gap provides a fresh way of giving young people in Hackney a voice on legal issues that matter to them,’ continues UCL’s Jacqueline Kinghan, director of clinical legal education
The project is part of Hackney Community Law Centre’s campaign to raise its profile in the context of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act, which removes public funding from much of what is known as ‘social welfare law’. HCLC is spearheading a campaign to (in manager Sean Canning’s words) ‘popularise the concept of the law centre’ and to make sure that local communities better understand the role of the advice sector. Canning said that he was ‘particularly pleased that, through the participation in the project of local schools, colleges and the Hackney Council of Voluntary services, young people from Hackney will be involved in the project right from the start’. ‘Their own unique knowledge and input will ensure that the adviceguide will be relevant and of solid practical use’.
A pilot project
The project will be evaluated by an advisory board comprising prominent lawyers, leading academics and advisors from the legal not-for-profit sector.
Mind the JusticeGap is to be a pilot project and the aim is to developing similar projects.
Advisory board members include:
- Lord Bach, the former shadow justice secretary who led the opposition to LASPO in the Lords
- Michael Mansfield QC;
- Prof Richard Moorhead, soon to be UCL’s first chair in law and professional ethics
- David Jessel, the campaigning journalist (Rough Justice and Trial & Error) and former commissioner from the Criminal Cases Review Commission, and
- Sean Canning, Hackney Community Law Centre
‘One of the ideas behind www.thejusticegap.com is to “promote access to justice”, as we say on the site.’ comments Jon Robins, editor of the JusticeGap and patron of HCLC. ‘To that end, we want to develop the site as a resource of useful and interesting information about legal rights. It’s a long-term project. This is a first step. In the context of brutal legal aid cuts, the potential to close the justice gap through genuinely innovative PLE projects like this needs to be developed as quickly as possible. There is a shocking lack of decent information about legal rights on the Internet’.
SUPPORT ‘MIND THE JUSTICEGAP’: If you are interested in supporting Mind the JusticeGap – or developing a similar project – please email: email@example.com. We’re particularly interested in hearing from universities and law schools.