Leading a legal campaign to secure compensation for historic sexual abuse victims and work to highlight the welfare rights of young adults has led to national recognition for Teesside University’s student-run legal advice service.
Teesside Law Clinic has been nominated for two national awards in the LawWorks and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards 2015, shortlisted in the Best Contribution by a Team of Students and Best New Student Pro Bono Activity award categories.
Law students work in Teesside Law Clinic under the supervision of professionals to give them practical experience of dealing with real clients, while offering a service to the community in cases where people may otherwise find it difficult to afford legal advice and representation.
The Best Contribution by a Team of Students shortlisting recognises Teesside Law Clinic’s launch of a legal challenge on behalf of a client to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in a bid to secure fair pay-outs for historic sex abuse victims.
The landmark legal challenge aims to prevent those who suffered historic sex abuse at the hands of a family member from missing out on compensation, as many victims are denied compensation due to a legal loophole.
Andrew Perriman (pictured), Teesside University Senior Law Lecturer who runs the Law Clinic, said: “Very rarely does an opportunity arise when lawyers get a chance to change the law and the fact that the law students are fighting for such an important change is hugely significant. If the case is successful it will be a catalyst for other claimants.”
The shortlisting in the Best New Student Pro Bono Activity category is in recognition of the Law Clinic’s involvement with the Big Lottery funded Know Your Money Project (KYM), for which a specialist post, created by funding from Middlesbrough Council’s Welfare Reform Fund, provides specialist welfare advice to 16 to 24 year olds.
The joint project with KYM, Middlesbrough Council and social enterprise Actes has seen around £150,000 recovered on behalf of clients who were previously not able to access help. Support is offered in assisting the client group accessing their entitlement to benefits and through representation at tribunals.
Andrew said: “While providing law students with vital experience of working with real clients, the level of work carried out in the Law Clinic highlights that it is providing a lifeline for some people. It is also evident that the lack of financial assistance available as a result of cuts to legal aid has seen a decrease in the number of people being able to easily access the justice they deserve.”
He added: “To date, since Teesside Law Clinic was launched in 2012, we have dealt with around 700 queries, which includes referrals from solicitors, the courts, citizens advice and MPs and we’re approaching around half a million pounds saved or recovered for clients.”
The awards ceremony is at the House of Commons on Wednesday March 25. All shortlisted nominees will receive certificates of commendation signed by the Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC MP.