Legal aid professionals celebrated at awards ceremony

Legal aid trailblazers were honoured at last night’s (12 July) Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) awards.

The annual ceremony opened its doors once more to applaud the legal aid community and celebrate the winners for each category of legal aid work. More than five hundred people attended the awards, organised by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group.

“Congratulations to all the winners and finalists of this year’s LALY awards,” said Law Society of England and Wales president, Lubna Shuja.

“We’re delighted to be celebrating people who are a testament to the profession through their commitment to social justice, often working long hours on behalf of those in dire straits, despite the increasing pressures of the job.

“Legal aid lawyers work to ensure that everyone has the right to justice and to have their voices heard, no matter what their circumstances are.

“Access to justice is under threat however, as the continued underfunding of legal aid is forcing solicitors out of the profession.* It is no longer financially viable to do this demanding and important work. Sustained investment is needed to change this.”

All the award winners spoke of being inspired by the bravery and courage of their clients – ordinary people facing extraordinary difficulties, for whom legal aid is an invaluable lifeline.

Deighton Pierce Glynn (DPG) were the winners of the Legal Aid Firm/Not-For-Profit Agency award, which is sponsored by the Law Society.

DPG specialises in civil rights. The firm has brought a string of successful judicial reviews for Afghan nationals who had worked with the British forces yet had been refused entry to the UK under the British government’s relocation schemes. Many of the individuals were in hiding from the Taliban and in fear for their lives.

On the shortlist were Watkins & Gunn Solicitors, a Welsh-based firm providing family legal aid; and Central England Law Centre, which has worked tirelessly to embed rights in communities.

Taking home the Criminal Defence award, Catherine Bond of SL5 Legal called for the next government to act on increasing criminal legal aid rates by the minimum recommended 15%, including prison law which has so far had no increase at all.

Other notable winners were Katayoon Zare from immigration firm TRP Solicitors, winning the award for Legal Aid Support Staffer; and Victoria Jones from RLE Law in the Family Legal Aid category.

The accolade of Outstanding Achievement was awarded to the family of Molly Russell and their legal team who navigated the inquest process and held to account several of the biggest social media giants for allowing dangerous online content to be viewed by vulnerable young people.

Notes for editors

*See a full breakdown of duty solicitors forecasts for both national and Police Force Area

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