YLAL North minutes 15.06.2016

Since the last meeting in April, please find below a brief update on what people can get involved with/support and attend for YLAL North: –

Justice Alliance has teamed up with The Justice Gap to crowdfund for a one-off publication to tell the definitive story of legal aid. The magazine, titled ‘Justice in a Time of Austerity’, will be aimed at the public and launched at a series of events across the country. If you would like to contribute towards the funding of the magazine, visit CrowdJustice.

YLAL North in Liverpool has their next meeting on 30 June 2016. YLAL North will be hosting a special Hillsborough event in Liverpool at BPP on Lord Street. ‘Hillsborough Inquests: The long fight for justice’ features four fantastic guest speakers with first hand experience of the inquests and the campaign for justice.

Guest Speakers – Overview

Yogi Amin, Partner and National Head of Public Law

Please find Yogi’s bio here.  

Yogi discussed a high profile Public Law case, and stressed that legal aid was available in that case, but that it is also still available for a number of public law matters.

He discussed the case of Blake & Ors v London Borough of Waltham Forest [2014] EWHC 1027 (Admin). 

This was a judicial review to challenge the council’s decision to revoke a London soup kitchen’s licence to operate in an authority-owned car park. Christian Kitchen is a registered charity whose trustees organise a soup kitchen which has provided meals and hot drinks to homeless, vulnerable people in Walthamstow for more than 25 years. The facility opens for one hour, seven nights a week all year round. Although the council had not funded the kitchen for many years, it nevertheless supported the project by allowing the charity to use its Mission Grove car park for over 20 years.

However, alleged anti-social behaviour associated with the soup kitchen users (contested as to its extent), together with substantial regeneration works in the area, led the council to conclude that the licence should be terminated.

The High Court concluded that the Council’s decision to revoke a licence for a soup kitchen was unlawful as it was taken without due regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). Simler J stressed the ‘need for clear well-informed decision-making when assessing potentially grave adverse impacts on some of the most vulnerable members of society… in the current economic climate’.

The court noted that while, in relation to each protected characteristic, the Equality Analysis identifies the proposed change of location as having a potential adverse impact on the particular group, it was silent on closure of the soup kitchen altogether. Similarly, although the mitigating measures proposed in each case are all to do with accessing the proposed new location for the soup kitchen; there was ‘no consideration whatever of mitigation measures addressed at reducing or avoiding the impact of closure altogether’.

In the court’s view, the council ‘should have considered the likely impact… on the vulnerable users of the soup kitchen on the basis that the soup kitchen would close rather than on the wholly unrealistic basis that they would suffer little or no detriment because the kitchen could relocate’.

In the circumstances, Simler J found that the PSED had not been complied with. The risk of closure was not considered and weighed in the balance. So, although an impact assessment was carried out, it did not in the circumstances provide the analysis and information necessary to discharge the duty to have focused due regard.

Mark George, QC and Head of Chambers at Garden Court North Chambers

Please find Mark’s bio here.  

Mark discussed his involvement, representing 22 families at the Hillsborough Inquests. He stressed the importance of working well within a team was required, in order to appropriately advise and support the families through the inquests.

As a result of the events at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989, 96 men, women and children lost their lives. Following an application by the Attorney-General, in December 2012 the High Court quashed the verdicts in the original inquests and ordered fresh inquests to be held.

The Rt Hon Sir John Goldring has been appointed as Assistant Coroner for South Yorkshire (East) and West Yorkshire (West) to conduct those inquests.  The inquests hearings started on Monday 31 March 2014 at 305 Bridgewater Place, Birchwood Park, Warrington, Cheshire WA3 6XF. 

Mark gave a very thought provoking and heartfelt overview of his work at the inquests.

He advised how the legal team were divided into separate teams in order to appropriately deal with various aspects of the inquests. Both he and Pete Weatherby QC were the advocates, with a team of junior barristers, solicitors and paralegals.

He stated that justice denied leaves deep wounds, as a descriptor of how the families had felt during such a prolonged period to finally obtain justice.

He referred back to the 1990 and 1991 inquests and the narrative which was used – which was robustly analysed and disputed at the inquests of 2014-16. It was noted that the previous narrative had practically blamed the football fans for what had happened. This was used in the tabloid newspapers and sadly “mud sticks”. The original inquests were concluded as accidental which enraged the families. The family weren’t interested in compensation for their lost loved ones, and their fight for justice continued for a further 25 years.

In 2010 which marked the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, Andy Burnham sought for justice for the 96 who sadly lost their lives. The Hillsborough Independent Panel was set up in 2012 after the Attorney General ordered for fresh inquests to be heard. A decision to overturn the original inquests was ordered.

Mark explained how he had joined the team to represent the 22 families in the summer of 2013 and until March 2015, he hadn’t worked on any other case.

There was a maximum jury of 11 people who heard the evidence, and in the end, 10 people gave the conclusions.

There were 6 police teams whose conduct was questioned at the inquests.

The inquest conclusions were over half a million pages long which would amount to 125 metres and fill 1,200 lever arch files! By the end, the pages were over a million pages.

The verdict was given on 26 April 2016, with the inquest being heard over 319 days. The jury was asked to consider whether the cause of the 96 deaths was due to unlawful killing. This has to be proved beyond all reasonable doubt and was the eventual decision by the jury. It was the first inquest Mark had known the jury to applaud the decision.

Mark concluded his talk by stating that “if your cause is just, you should not give up; you can force the state to answer what it’s truly responsible for”.

Chris Peace, solicitor at Howells and member of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign

Chris specialises in criminal defence work, particularly representing children and young people. Her bio is here

She is an active member of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign. She described how she became interested in campaigning for the organisation. She was 14 at the time of the miners strike. Whilst she was at school, she had friends whose parents were present and involved at the miners strike – it was something which affected a whole community.

She explained how strikes were a lot more common in 1980’s but that the Orgreave Miners Strike was unprecedented. The National Union of Mining Workers (NUM
W) had launched a strike as there was anticipated closure of 70 coal mining pits. This not only meant that people would lose their jobs but the towns and cities would lose the mining communities as a whole.

The picketing miners were attacked on 18 June 1984 by South Yorkshire Police. Chris showed some eye opening footage from 1984 – the link to that video is here https://vimeo.com/148549592

In 1985 48 prosecutions collapsed. The trials were abandoned so the miners and their families did not get to put their side across. There were some civil claims but these too settled out of court – again their stories not being heard or recorded in court.

Chris emphasised how the families must have felt; “justice denied will leave scars”. The miners not only suffered from physical scars including fractured skulls, but also emotional scars as well.

She highlighted how there was likely to be covert policing at the miners strike, and the Pitchford Enquiry has also highlighted how an enquiry is needed for undercover policing.

She concluded her talk by emphasising that “trust will never truly be restored until the truth is heard.”

Please note that there are a number of upcoming events for the Orgreave Campaign, one of which is taking place on Saturday 18 June at 5pm – The rally on 18 June is taking place to represent 32 years when the police attacked picketing miners at the Orgreave Coking plant in South Yorkshire during the 1984 Miners Strike. 

Chris welcomed people to attend and show their support this Saturday. Please see the link to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign here http://otjc.org.uk/

Next Meeting

Informal social will be taking place in August 2016 – date and time TBC – we will then resume our regular meetings with guest speakers from October 2016 onwards.

If you would like to get more involved such as helping organise events or writing articles for YLAL to the local press, please feel free to email YLAL Info.  

Once again, a huge thank you to our guest speakers attending and delivering extremely interesting talks in such influential areas of law. 

YLAL Sheffield looks forward to welcoming those to our first social in August.