It was therefore without hesitation that we as a firm decided to step forward to offer assistance to the Libraries campaign this time last year.
After the conclusion of the consultation process the County Council made the much anticipated decision to significantly reduce the scope of the “statutory” library provision in Lincolnshire.
We were able to provide initial advice and guidance to the Campaign organisers in respect of how to proceed to Judicial Review. After a number of meetings we identified a Barrister, David Lawson of Hardwicke Chambers who also offered to provide initial advice Pro Bono (free of charge). During these initial meetings we were also able to identify the firm Public Interest Lawyers as being able to assist the campaign group. Paul Heron of Public Interest Lawyers took on the case and was able to obtain legal aid for the applicant. We approached Public Interest Lawyers as they have a proven track record in these types of challenges.
Ultimately the case was passed to Public Interest Lawyers and Paul Heron together with David Lawson successfully fought the Council's decision at Judicial review.
The following is a useful link to an article in the Law Society Gazette which succinctly sets out the arguments in the case.
As you will see from this article the court’s ruling does not guarantee that the current library provision will remain. The campaign therefore continues and you can learn more by visiting the campaign website.
Importantly as a post script we believe it is important that individuals and community groups can challenge decisions that affect them. It would have been highly unlikely that the case would have been fought had legal aid not been available. Whilst the effect of the decision is ultimately still uncertain it has at least required the Local Authority to take note of public opinion and reconsider its position. The current Justice Secretary seeks to remove legal aid for these types of cases. Legal aid is only available where there is merit in the case and it is not easily obtained. We feel there are currently sufficient safe guards to ensure that public money is not wasted. We remain proud to be able to provide legal aid services to our community and are pleased we were able to offer initial support to the campaign in this case.