Over 500 hundred people attended the opening celebration of the new Law Centre in Moss Side, Manchester on Saturday 11th February 2017.
Patrons Michael Mansfield QC, renowned human rights lawyer and one of the founders of the Law Centre movement, and Maxine Peake, star of stage and TV, were present when Dr Erinma Bell MBE cut the ribbon at the Law Centre: “You know how they say if there’s no legal aid there’s no access to justice. Well we’re cutting into that today… We will have legal aid and we will have access to justice. Being part of the community I’m going to cut into it because this is done by local people for local people.”
Seven of the nine law centres in Greater Manchester have shut after cuts of £350m to legal aid. Following changes to legal aid in 2013, people can get funding for fewer types of civil proceedings.
Mr Mansfield said the new Law Centre was “courageous to stand out and say ‘we’re not going to allow this to happen, we want proper public funding’.” adding that it was essential that people were able to receive advice “face-to-face”. He said he was “very concerned” about the situation in Greater Manchester and that demand for free and independent legal advice was growing but facilities were reducing. “The present situation is that it’s very difficult to find anybody prepared to fight for this.”
Bolton actor Maxine Peake added that it is “so important there are places like this” because “if not, how will people afford it? Access to free legal advice is as important as access to healthcare“.
The Law Centre established premises in October 2016 with help from a generous charitable trust grant. Legal advice services are provided by volunteers and solicitors working for free.
John Nicholson, Chair of the Greater Manchester Law Centre, said:
“We are fighting for a new generation of publicly funded social welfare lawyers… we’re not just here to mask the severity of cuts and closures.”
“We are grateful for all the generous support we have received so far and look forward to the continued support by the community and especially the Greater Manchester legal community. We have shown that if people want there to be a law centre, then there will be. Now we need all the help we can get to make this last – and so as to expand services within all ten Greater Manchester boroughs to make free legal advice and representation available to all who so desperately need it. ”
After the official opening, there was a party at West Indian Sports and Social Club in Moss Side attended by hundreds of people from the local community, Stretford MP Kate Green, local councillors Mahadi Sharif, Emily Rowles, and Amina Lone, President of Manchester Trades Union Council Alex Davidson, and many others. They were entertained by the Holy Name RC Primary School Steel Band, DJ Kemoy and the Woman Asylum Seekers Together choir – with special activities provided for over 100 children.
Greater Manchester Law Centre is at 159 Princess Road, Moss Side, Manchester M14 4RE.
The Greater Manchester Law Centre aims to provide access to free and independent legal advice and representation for the people of Greater Manchester, as well as being a campaign for justice and properly funded legal aid.
For further information please contact:
Greater Manchester Law Centre, 159 Princess Road, Moss Side, Manchester, M14 4RE
t: 0161 769 2244
The Greater Manchester Law Centre is a member of the Law Centres Network, www.lawcentres.org.uk.