Individuals and teams from solicitors firms across the region pounded the pavements to raise money for the North West Legal Support Trust (NWLST).
The NWLST is a grant-making charity, supported by the Access to Justice Foundation, which raises and distributes much needed funds to support free legal advice services for all in the North West.
Last night’s Walk was just one of the many fundraising events that the NWLST organises in order to raise money to help provide legal aid to people who cannot afford it; from families living in terrible housing conditions to people who have been unfairly dismissed from work.
Chair of the NWLST, Dinah Crystal OBE said: “Some people have absolutely nowhere to go for legal advice, so they can go to charities and centres who will apply for a grant from the NWLST; centres such as The Vauxhall Law Centre and Merseyside Law Centre, both of whom we’ve helped out in the past.”
Alan Kelly from the Vauxhall Law Centre told us: “Vauxhall Community Law and Information Centre is an independent charity providing Welfare Advice and support mainly to disadvantaged and vulnerable people living in Liverpool.
“If it wasn't for funds received from the North West Legal Support Trust and the Access to Justice Foundation the Law Centre would have become insolvent about 3 years ago and it would have closed.
“The cuts in public funding to advice centres can be illustrated by the fact that in 2011 100% of our funding came from Legal Aid and the Local Authority. This year that figure is 0% (zero). We now rely on charitable donations and fundraising.”
Around 19 teams from law firms across Liverpool took part in the walk, including a team from Morecrofts Solicitors, one from Maxwell Hodge Solicitors and members of the Liverpool Law Society.
John Ballam, President of the Liverpool Law Society said: “Legal Aid has been eroding away since the mid 90s – civil litigation and family litigation has now gone completely so that people are not able to take action, and those who can’t afford solicitors are in great difficulty.”
Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Malcolm Kennedy was also in attendance and was one of the first walkers to reach the finish line at HUS on Tithebarn Street.
Chatting to him as he walked the 5k, Cllr Kennedy said: “The Vauxhall Law Centre is in my ward and has been since I was elected as a councillor. It’s done terrific work and has a great reputation.
“Walks and events like this are extremely important to because the kind of people that those centres help are the people who can’t afford lawyers and in the days when Legal Aid has been slashed and access to the kind of advice that people need is limited then law centres provide a necessary service.”
The event even attracted local celebrity and former Brookside legend, Michael Starke, AKA Sinbad, who made an appearance in support of the NWLST.
Michael said: “I was delighted to come along and be part of such a positive initiative.
“Legal aid is so important. All our rights are being eroded; we need to fight for things and the only way we can do that is by getting involved, get out there and support these things.”
Last year the Liverpool Legal Walk raised around £3000 and Laura Cassidy from the Access to Justice Foundation told us that they were hoping to top that this year with donations on the night having already amounted to over £2000.
Fundraising pages for the NWLST stay open for another three months and the final total will be announced in January.
Written by Amy Farnworth