North Kensington Law Centre was the first law centre to open its doors in the UK in 1970 and this Friday they are celebrating their 50th anniversary. With support from The National Lottery Community Fund and The Tudor Trust, we’ve been working with them to capture the stories of their clients, trustees, and staff past and present to put a spotlight on the importance of access to justice for all. Halima was a client of North Kensington Law Centre. In this guest blog she shares how she first came to hear of the law centre following the Grenfell incident, and the trust and support the community has had with the Law Centre since.
I’m Halima originally from Nigeria, I’ve been in the UK for over 23 years now and I’m one of the Grenfell residents.
I got to know about the North Kensington Law Centre after the Grenfell incident. They came to help us with our cases. Some of us had immigration, housing and other issues and they’ve been looking into our cases and taking care of the residents so they’ve been a massive help to us, the residents of Grenfell and I’m sure with the community too. I never expected it, I never knew the worth of the Law Centre until this incident. Their response really opened my eyes towards how useful they could be in the community and we’re really, really pleased and happy to have them in the community.
When I first met my lawyer Annie she was very welcoming and everything she wanted to do she explained it in detail, in plain language. She would update me by email, phone calls and regular meetings. Because of the kind of person she is, she was able to figure out something very personal to me that I’ve kept from everybody for years. I’ve carried it like a burden you know, things I’ve gone through, so I had to open up to her, I told her everything and we became very close and she was able to use that and help me move forward in life.
‘When you don’t have access to justice it cripples you’
With my past experience I shouldn’t trust lawyers. I’ve had very nasty experiences with lawyers but in this case it was very easy. I cannot explain it, from my first meeting with Annie I knew I could trust her. When I told her my case she told me what was possible and assured me that I had a case. I believed her straight away and she did all she needed to do and I got a result.
When you don’t have access to justice it cripples you, it makes you feel robbed, denied, like you’re not intelligent enough because when you don’t have access to justice there are a lot of good things that you can’t contribute to the community. Because you don’t have access to justice everything is just bottled up and you just feel wasted. When you have access to justice, you’re able to communicate, express yourself, you’re able to bring out that person in you and contribute to the community.
Since Grenfell, North Kensington Law Centre has been on the lips of most of the community people I’ve seen or talked to.
They had been with us all this while, and we never noticed them. Something as massive as Grenfell had to happen for us to notice. They’re about to celebrate 50 years, it’s amazing. For me there’s no way to describe the help they’ve given me, all of the staff are amazing, they are very welcoming from the receptionist, to all the lawyers. The Law Centre was the first set of lawyers that came to our aid when the incident happened. They were meeting and assisting people, and they’re still working with the residents in different ways. My case with them was immigration and they took care of my housing, too.
Regarding my documentation Annie has been so amazing. There was a time I had an issue coming into the country, and I called Annie and it was late, about five o’clock and Annie took it on and called the Home Office. I was later released to go home around ten o’clock. That is how committed they are to clients. I don’t think they see cases as just clients discharged, time over. They always work extra time to make sure everybody’s happy and safe.
The Law Centre is very, very important to the community. They are the voice of the masses, the voice of the voiceless, the voice of the poor. I had spent over £10,000 trying to get documented and the Law Centre has charged me nothing. I urge the government to come to their aid and assistance. They fought my case that people who took my money couldn’t fight, and I got justice. Now I want to contribute to the community and country. I want to be the voice of the people because I have been through a lot. I know a lot of people are there, not knowing what to do, how to go about it, not knowing their rights. I didn’t know my rights until the Law Centre. That is the truth. I would really like to be the gap between the masses and justice, speak on their behalf, be able to motivate them and let them know, yes, they can get justice.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank the Law Centre and to encourage them. I know they will be facing a lot of challenges and I want to take this opportunity to wish them all the best in their 50th year.
About the Author:
Halima was a client of North Kensington Law Centre (NKLC). She participated in a series of storytelling workshops we delivered with NKLC to encourage clients of the charity to share the stories of the impact NKLC has had on them. This year NKLC is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and sharing stories about the law centre past and present.
This blog was first published on the NKLC blog.