Abuse, neglect and injustice run through UK prisons. However, the relentless wave of legal aid cuts, including those brought about by LASPO 2012, has seriously obstructed access to justice for prisoners. Prisoners in the UK no longer qualify for legal aid in a vast array of matters, creating a wide gap for their rights to be breached without consequence. Kesar & Co Solicitors established Intervene Project in 2013 in response to LASPO, and to help close this gap.
Intervene Project is a registered Legal Charity. We strive to provide free legal advice and representation to any prisoners in England and Wales who approach us, and who qualify for our service. We believe everyone, including prisoners, deserves access to justice and the protection of their human rights. We are a modest-sized team, with one full-time Manager, ten volunteer caseworkers and ten volunteer researchers. Despite our size, we are able to contribute over 4000 hours of pro bono work per year. However, this still does not come close to meeting the demand for our service, highlighting the Government’s serious underestimation of the present need for pro bono work. The Government-set target for pro bono work at large City firms is currently set at a meagre 35 hours per year.
Due to the ever-increasing demand for our service, our caseload has more than doubled in the past six months. We currently assist more than 200 clients. We have 80 more potential clients desperately awaiting referral, and this figure increases week upon week. The majority of our clients are referred to us directly from Kesar & Co, however, word of our service has spread amongst the prison establishments, and now many clients request our services directly. This further signifies the vast extent of abuse taking place within the prison system, and the seriously restricted access to justice faced by those who are incarcerated.
Our clients inform our team of the horrific abuses they face on a daily basis. Recent examples of such abuse have included staff negligently burning a client with boiling water; a client being barred from contacting his spouse for months, without a warning or explanation; a client being deprived of cell heating for a full winter; and a client not receiving urgent dental treatment or pain relief for several months. We have experience providing advice and assistance in an extensive array of matters including property; clinical negligence; prison transfers; adjudications; physical, verbal and sexual abuse; discrimination; employment; education; healthcare, mental healthcare, nutrition and dental care; data protection; personal identity; rehabilitation and progression; negligent living conditions; human rights; and obstructions to communication. We have issued civil claims for our clients, provided them with county court representation, assisted them with judicial reviews, and have secured settlements exceeding £20,000.
If you are a student or aspiring lawyer and wish to practice in legal aid sectors, you are in the ideal position to apply to join our dedicated team of volunteers. The majority of our volunteers are law students, who are swiftly snapped up by solicitors’ firms and barristers’ chambers after working with us. We recruit our volunteer caseworkers and researchers on a rolling basis. Our unique affiliation with Kesar & Co, who provide us with premises and guidance, means that our volunteers are united with solicitors and barristers who are practising successfully in legal aid areas. We equip our volunteers with the skills they need to stay committed to and thrive in these areas, despite the current climate. We believe that such experience is crucial to ensure talented law students with the desire to practice in legal aid areas do not feel forced to pursue alternatives for financial reasons.
Should you wish to volunteer as a caseworker, you would have the opportunity to assist our clients at all stages of the legal process, from initial advice to courtroom representation. You would take calls from clients; draft correspondence to prison staff, The Ministry of Justice, MPs, Governors and medical providers; draft and submit Letters Before Action; and should it prove necessary, would be involved in issuing claims and providing courtroom advocacy. Most of our caseworkers dedicate one day per week, and the opportunity is not remote.
Should you wish to volunteer as a researcher, you would be placed at the forefront of identifying improvements to the way in which the legal aid budget is currently spent. We launched our novel research project at the end of 2021, in collaboration with The University of Law, and our aim is to produce a report for publication. We are additionally hoping to expand our areas of research to include assessing the impact of IPPs and Covid-19 on the prison population. Most of our researchers dedicate three hours per week, and the opportunity is remote.
You can discover more about volunteering with us here: https://www.interveneproject.org/volunteer .
Further to our opportunities for student lawyers, we welcome further collaboration with charities, organisations, researchers and individual lawyers who share our values. Our large client base, with whom we have frequent contact, and internal research team, places us in an ideal position to collaborate with those concerned with the state of the current prison system. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to work with us.
Additionally, due to reaching peak capacity following the steep increase in our caseload, our resources are thinly stretched. We urgently require increased financial support if we want to continue providing access to justice for prisoners, expanding our caseload and take further steps towards meeting demand. It is no secret that funders do tend to avoid prisoners, and thus, donors are difficult for us to find. We only exist thanks to the stubborn determination and support of Kesar & Co, our very small pool of existing donors, and our dedicated volunteers. Whilst we have strived to plug the hole caused for prisoners by LASPO, we are currently unable to extend our service to support migrants, whose access to justice has been similarly restricted. This is due to having insufficient funds to meet the steep costs of immigration casework accreditations.
We have made the process for donating easier than ever. Every generous donation, no matter the size, directly supports our casework and clients. You can discover how to donate here: https://www.interveneproject.org/donate
Do be sure to follow our updates on LinkedIn (Intervene Project) and Twitter (@intervenepro).
Evie Smith, Intervene Project Manager