Shelter lawyers win first pro bono costs order

Award will go to the Access to Justice Foundation to support fee-free legal work for charities

Lawyers acting pro bono for Shelter have won the first ‘pro bono costs order' of £20,000, which will be used to support further cases where they do not take a fee.

Shelter solicitors John Gallagher and Marie Burton, and barrister Andrew Walker of Maitland Chambers were representing a family who had been threatened with eviction in a dispute over the terms of a sale and leaseback scheme on their house.

The family were just above the income threshold for eligibility for legal aid.

The lawyers won the case, plus a £20,000 cost award - the amount that would have been chargeable if they had been charging for their services.

Under the Legal Services Act 2007, the money will go to the Access to Justice Foundation, a legal charity chaired by Lord Goldsmith, a former Attorney General.

The foundation will use the money to support national and regional programmes to promote further pro bono work.

John Gallagher, one of Shelter's solicitors, said it was hard for charities to represent people pro bono because they rarely had the necessary resources.

"It is difficult to keep income going on the basis of legal aid," he said.

"The time left for pro bono work is very limited. It is ironic that private firms and barristers often have more scope than charities to do it."

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