The relentless wave of cuts to legal aid is well known, however, their devastating impact on access to justice for prisoners is continually brushed aside. Following LASPO 2012, prisoners no longer qualify for legal aid in a vast array of matters, creating a widening legal aid gap where abuse is left unchallenged. It should be no secret that neglect and mistreatment run through UK prisons, and for the majority of prisoners, their only recourse is through the courts. Intervene Project is a registered legal charity established by Kesar & Co solicitors in 2013. Our aim is to help plug this legal aid gap that prevents prisoners from accessing justice. We provide free legal advice and representation to prisoners in England and Wales, firmly believing that everyone, including prisoners, deserves the protection of their human rights.
Our casework covers discrimination; property; medical negligence; abuse and assaults; adjudication appeals; prison transfers; access to education, employment, and rehabilitative resources; and obstructions to communication. We have assisted our clients with civil claims, county court trials, judicial reviews and settlements in excess of £20,000. We have obtained improved healthcare, mental healthcare, living conditions and employment opportunities; secured compensation for injuries; investigations into abuse; formal apologies from officials; located valuable items of property; overturned unjust adjudications; and have secured prison transfers that have drastically increased the quality of life. We have represented a client who did not receive emergency dental treatment and pain relief for several months, a client who was deprived of cell heating for an entire winter, a client who was negligently burned with boiling water by staff, and a client who was prevented from contacting their spouse without warning or justification. Despite facing these horrific abuses, none of the aforementioned clients currently qualify for legal aid. It should be noted that a similar legal aid gap exists for migrants, however, due to the steep costs of immigration casework accreditations, we are currently unable to take on immigration cases.
The nationwide demand for our service highlights the critical need for increased availability of legal aid in this area. Despite currently contributing over 4000 hours of pro bono work per year, we do not come close to meeting demand. Thus, we are certain the Government’s pro bono target for City firms, 35 hours per year, will barely scratch the surface of the work required to meet this demand. Our active caseload has more than doubled within the past six months, and we now assist over 200 prisoners. We have 80 more potential clients desperately awaiting referral, and this figure is increasing exponentially. Whilst we receive regular referrals from Kesar & Co, word of our service has spread through the establishments, and we now receive direct requests for assistance from potential clients. However, our resources are thinly stretched, and we are now at peak capacity. We urgently require increased financial support if we are to provide access to justice to as many prisoners as possible. It is no secret that funders tend to avoid prisoners, and thus, donors are difficult to find. We only exist thanks to the support and determination of Kesar & Co, and our dedicated volunteers.
If you are an aspiring lawyer committed to legal aid areas, you can help increase access to justice for those who need it most by volunteering with us. You will be equipped with the skills needed to successfully build a legal aid practice despite the challenging times, rather than feel forced to pursue alternative areas for financial reasons. We believe the retention of talented and committed law students within legal aid sectors is crucial for the revival of legal aid work. If you wish to volunteer, you can find out more here: http://www.younglegalaidlawyers.org/node/3627. Further, we collaborate with law schools, film directors and independent researchers who share our values; do contact us if you would similarly like to collaborate with our caseworkers or research team.
If you would like to donate to support our charity, we have made the process for donating as simple as possible. Every generous donation, no matter the size, directly supports our casework and clients. Please follow the donation link here: https://www.interveneproject.org/donate.
Do be sure to follow our updates on LinkedIn (Intervene Project) and Twitter (@intervenepro). We are thrilled to share that we have been shortlisted for the LexisNexis Pro Bono Award 2022.
Written by Evie Smith, Intervene Project Manager