MLC now have shared use of an office adjacent to the main waiting area in Liverpool Civil and Family Court. We are sharing the office with James Murray Solicitors, Support Through Court and Citizen’s Advice. This development evolved from a plan to extend the time we have to speak to our clients before we enter court. The result of this new space is that people facing possession claims etc at court have a far better chance of understanding their legal position and that we have a better chance of understanding the full nature of the court action against the client. This ultimately gives a better chance of succeeding with the defence. Previously often there would be just a minute or two in a corridor to talk, if the client had just turned up at court rather than getting an appointment with us prior.
We are in the main Attending Court on Wednesdays and Fridays and on these days our Housing Solicitor/ Caseworker (acting as an agent for James Murray) is responsible for running the Housing Duty Possession Scheme. This scheme is funded by the Legal Aid Agency and provides emergency advice and representation to defendants in possession cases, who may not have been able to obtain legal advice prior to their possession hearing. The duty adviser can assist tenants and borrowers who have rent arrears and mortgage arrears, and in proceedings for anti-social behaviour. A defendant who seeks advice on the day is much more likely to be able to reach an agreement and keep living in the property that they reside in.
Separately to the HDPS we can also provide advice and assistance to clients via our ITOLS project. This funding allows us to try and prevent legal action against a client by providing early intervention at / or prior to a Court hearing. We are not restricted by Legal Aid with this funding and so may be able to provide some assistance to clients who do not qualify for public funding. This has enabled us to widen our scope in terms of who we can assist and enables us to often avoid attending court which is much less stressful and time consuming for all involved in the case.
Prior to MLC agreeing to attend court on a Wednesday and Friday there was no-one available to provide Legal Advice or representation on these days, and defendants were often not represented in Court. Judiciary and court staff are so pleased that there is now complete coverage for the whole week in court, which is so vital to ensure to access to justice for all those in need.