Wednesday, 20 April 2016

GLC recruitment: vacancy for a Solicitor (Education Law Unit)

GLC recruitment: Solicitor (Education Law Unit)

GLC’s renowned Education Law Unit is looking for a solicitor to assist in the delivery of the ELU project objectives.  The post is full-time, and funding is in place until 31 March 2019. Competitive salary offered.

This position would be suitable for a solicitor who is dedicated and enthusiastic and wishes to join a progressive Law Centre to assist in the delivery and expansion of this Scotland wide project. As training will be provided, this could suit a recently/newly qualified solicitor who has an interest in Law Centre and Education work. The post is based in Orkney Street, Govan but some travel within Scotland will be required.


If you consider you are suitable for this position, please submit your CV together with an accompanying letter explaining your suitability and motivation for the post to Candy Walker, Service Manager, Govan Law Centre, Orkney Street Enterprise Centre, 18-20 Orkney Street, Glasgow G51 2BZ or by e-mail to cwalker@ govanlc.com by 12 NOON on Friday 13th May 2016. Any applications received after the deadline will not be considered.
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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Govan Law Centre secures homes for 198 rough sleepers at the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter

A detailed report on Govan Law Centre's (GLC) partnership work with the Glasgow City Mission's Winter Night Shelter is currently being prepared but we are in a position to release some key statistics. 

GLC's Prevention of Homelessness Project's Senior Manager, Alastair Sharp said:  "From 3 December 2015 to 31 March 2016, Govan Law Centre provided legal advice and representation and housing and homelessness case work support to homeless persons though two weekly 'Rights Hubs' at the Winter Shelter each week".

"Our legal interventions resulted in 198 rough sleepers in Glasgow securing homes through statutory homelessness services; we wrote over 200 letters for clients (with additional follow-up casework work for many clients) and undertook 32 Rights Hubs averaging 3.5 hours per session. We initiated proceedings in six Judicial Reviews at the Court of Session in Edinburgh securing accommodation and good outcomes for all of our clients".
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Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Preventing people sleeping rough on the streets of Glasgow

Lorna Walker and Wendy Malloy 
Lorna Walker, Senior Solicitor at Govan Law Centre's Prevention of Homelessness Project explains how our partnership work with Glasgow City Mission's Glasgow Winter Night Shelter has helped prevent people sleeping rough on the streets of Glasgow.

Most people are aware of the statistics that are thrown about regarding homeless people and rough sleepers in Glasgow; and although the statistics often shock us, we soon forget, because at the end of the day it is just a number.
 
I had the privilege of being involved as the solicitor from Govan Law Centre along with our prevention of homelessness caseworker Wendy Malloy at the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter outreach hub. This gave us the opportunity to offer legal advice to people who were using the Winter Night Shelter.

Although Govan Law Centre's Prevention of Homelessness Team is involved in a number of outreach hubs across Glasgow, being welcomed into an environment where people have literally just woken up from sleeping on a mattress on the floor, instead of the streets is a whole new level. 
 
Throughout our time at the Winter Night Shelter we attended every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 3rd December 2015 to 31st March 2016 and we met with 10-15 people each week. Every week we threatened Glasgow City Council with numerous judicial reviews if our clients were not accommodated and often we had to start legal proceedings.

Unfortunately our final week at the shelter was no different, we were just as busy. We had to start legal proceedings for three of our clients, two of which were offered accommodation after we secured legal aid for them and they were accommodated before the Winter Night Shelter closed. However, one client was fleeing severe violence from another area in Scotland and he was not accommodated and, in fact, no homeless application was taken by the homelessness service - a clear breach of their statutory duties - and resulting in our client having to sleep rough on the streets of Glasgow all weekend until 5th April.
 
The Housing (Scotland) 1987 Act is well written and often the law is on the side of homeless people, but unfortunately despite our client presenting on several occasions to different casework teams across Glasgow a homeless application was still not taken by the council. We supported our client by providing numerous letters, emails and phone calls to homeless caseworkers, team leaders and Glasgow City Council’s solicitor demanding that they meet their statutory duty, which was clearly outlined to them in all our correspondence. Furthermore, our client worked closely with the Simon Community's Street Team who often attended with him to the council's homelessness casework teams.

We insisted that they take a homeless application and accommodate our client on a temporary basis while a full investigation is undertaken as per the law. The council failed to offer temporary accommodation to our client. This resulted in a significant deterioration in our client’s mental health which resulted in him self-medicating by using drugs as a coping mechanism.
 
Glasgow City Council repeatedly failed to meet their legal obligation in terms of the 1987 Act and the Scottish Government Code of Guidance on Homelessness. Firstly they failed to take a homeless application. Secondly, they failed to provide temporary accommodation. Thirdly, they failed to carry out full and proper investigation, and fourthly provide a right of review.
 
It then became necessary to instruct Mike Dailly, Solicitor Advocate and Principal Solicitor to draft a Petition for Judicial Review to be lodged in the Court of Session urgently. Once we sent it to our Edinburgh agents, the Council fulfilled its statutory duty and temporary accommodation was provided to our client whilst they investigated the matter fully. Legally, this should have been done when our client presented in the first instance.
 
Sadly this case is not unique and we have a high volume of casework to prove this. We are deeply concerned about the people that do not get the same support and are ignored. It was fortunate we were in the position to meet this young man at the Winter Night Shelter outreach and ensure he had his legal rights protected. We are aware more people need to be helped in this way.

We will continue to work hard to ensure the council fulfil their duty to people affected by homelessness; but with such well written homeless legislation, it is devastating that our intervention is even necessary. For many reasons, people are not aware of their rights, their mental and physical health deteriorates and their circumstances often become life threatening. Often this leads to lack of self- worth and low self- esteem and often people get ‘lost’ out in the cold (literally) without any support.   

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Thursday, 3 March 2016

Repossession decree recalled despite homeowner having previously attended court: Sheriff Principal decision in Leeds Building Society v. H

The Sheriff Principal of South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway has today recalled a sheriff's interlocutor which had refused a homeowner's Minute for Recall of Decree as incompetent, upon the basis that she had previously appeared in person at court in her mortgage repossession case.

The general practice and understanding in Scotland was that a defender in a mortgage repossession action could only Minute for Recall of Decree where they had never appeared or been represented in earlier court proceedings, in relation to the requirements of section 24D(2)(b) of the Conveyancing and Feudal Reform (Scotland) Act 1970 (as inserted by the Homeowner and Debtor Protection (Scotland) Act 2010).

Section 24D of the 1970 Act provides that:
24D     Section 24(1B) proceedings: recall of decree
(1) A person mentioned in subsection (2) below may apply to the court for recall of a decree granted on an application under section 24(1B) of this Act.
(2) Those persons are—
(a) the creditor;
(b) the debtor, but only if the debtor did not appear and was not represented in the proceedings on the application under section 24(1B);
(c) an entitled resident, but only if the entitled resident did not make an application under section 24B(1) in the proceedings.

In the case of Leeds Building Society v. H, the defender had appeared at the first calling of her case in court in February 2013 at which time the proceedings were continued ex proprio motu (at the instance of the court) to monitor repayments; the case was then continued to two further dates in May 2013, at which times the defender did not appear, nor was she represented.

The lender sought and obtained decree in the defender's absence at the end of May 2013.  The defender then made payments over the next two years - and the lender did not enforce the court's decree whilst payments were made - before the defender fell into financial difficulties at which time the lender sought to enforce its decree to eject and enter into possession of the home.

The defender then contacted Govan Law Centre (GLC) and CHAP's Ayrshire Homelessness and Prevention Project (AHAP) who lodged a Minute for Recall of Decree upon her behalf. After the Minute was dismissed as incompetent, GLC pursued an appeal upon the defender's behalf.

Sheriff Principal Abercrombie Q.C. accepted the appellant's submission that in the particular circumstances of this case, a purposive interpretation of section 24D(2)(b) meant that the homeowner was entitled to seek a minute for recall of decree; if the Scottish Parliament had intended that a defender could not recall decree where they had appeared "at any stage of the proceedings" it would have said so. The defender had not appeared when decree was granted.

The Sheriff Principal found that the sheriff had erred in law in her interpretation of section 24D(2)(b); recalled the sheriff's interlocutor; allowed the Minute for Recall; fixed a Rule 18.3 hearing; and required parties to expedite a resolution of the case.

Aberdein Considine's Ms Milne, Solicitor appeared for the Respondents and Pursuers; GLC's Mike Dailly, Solicitor Advocate, appeared for the Appellant and Defender.


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Thursday, 4 February 2016

Scottish Government fail Scotland’s private sector tenants

Scottish private sector tenants are to be given less security of tenure than they enjoyed in Scotland under Mrs Thatcher’s Government from 1988.  The Scottish Government’s response to the Parliament’s ICI Committee report on the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill - published today[1] – will guarantee landlords an à la carte menu of mandatory eviction grounds to get rid of tenants.

The stated aim of the Bill was to provide “a clearer and simpler tenancy regime for the modern private rented sector which is fit for purpose”.  The Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee had asked the Government to give more thought to which eviction grounds should be mandatory and how much discretion should be given to the new Housing Tribunal in deciding whether to evict or not.

The Scottish Government has responded by endorsing its own view that landlords should be able to evict tenants at will. It has refused to budge on giving landlords a guaranteed right to remove a tenant from his or her home whenever they intend to sell, refurbish, move a member of their family in, or use the property for non-residential use.

On behalf of Govan Law Centre, Mike Dailly, Solicitor Advocate said:  “The Scottish Government are determined to give Scottish private tenants a zero hours contract on their home with no security of tenure in practice. This will create a moral hazard in the same way we had bankers spending other people’s money without a care in the world. Private landlords will be able to run their businesses in the comfortable knowledge that taxpayers will bail them out. Landlords will be entitled to remove their tenant out at will, with local authorities picking up the tab under homelessness law. It’s truly shameful, unjust and regressive”.

“What we will see in Scotland is evictions where landlords ‘intend’ to move in a member of their family, put the property on the market for sale, refurbish or stop letting. These intentions will guarantee the automatic eviction of tenants, but we all know most of these intentions will never materialise. In over twenty years as a housing law practitioner I have never seen such badly drafted, ill-advised and unjust grounds of eviction in legislation”.

“We had really hoped the Scottish Government would have listened to the advice of the Scottish Parliament’s Committee, which had carefully considered evidence from a wide range of tenant bodies, homelessness charities and advice agencies, and cautioned against these mandatory grounds of eviction. Sadly they have sided with the interests of private landlords; and of which many elected members are”.





[1] http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_InfrastructureandCapitalInvestmentCommittee/General%20Documents/20160203SGRespons_toICICommitteeStage1ReportOnPrivateHousingTenanciesScotlandBill.pdf
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