Shadow Minister visits Keele Community Legal Companion initiative
The CLOCK project is a wonderful way for Keele University students to make a positive contribution to North Staffordshire – and it was great to see how eager and enthusiastic the students were to help the community.”
One year on from the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, Tristram Hunt MP has visited a pioneering scheme at Keele University Law School that enables university students to assist litigants.
The Community Legal Companion (CLC) scheme –which is part of the Community Legal Outreach Collaboration Keele project, known as CLOCK – involves training Keele University second and third year law students to act as intermediaries to assist access to legal services and provide practical assistance to litigants in person. The CLC was developed from the well-known “McKenzie Friend” principle and 80 CLCs have so far been trained.
Shadow Secretary for Education, Tristram Hunt MP, visited the University to meet the students involved, as well as the partners in the CLOCK scheme, which include a number of local law firms, represented by Nowell Meller, Salmons, Young and Co., and charitable organisations including Staffordshire North & Stoke-on-Trent Citizens Advice Bureau, YMCA, Arch, Savana, Aspire and Brighter Futures and Voices of Experience.
The CLOCK partners shared their experience of how the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act has impacted on the community during the last year and discussed how the CLC scheme has provided a free and collaboratively trained service to litigants-in-person and made access to affordable legal services easier for litigants in the region. Since CLC launched, demand for the service has been growing and in February and March 2014, the CLCs supported more than 248 court users. It is anticipated that if demand continues at this level, the students could be helping more than 1,000 litigants annually in North Staffordshire alone.
Following the success of the scheme the team at Keele are now working with a number of other universities to roll-out the model more widely.
Tristram Hunt MP commented: “The CLOCK project is a wonderful way for Keele University students to make a positive contribution to North Staffordshire – and it was great to see how eager and enthusiastic the students were to help the community.”
Students wishing to become CLCs undergo intensive training from members of the Keele University Law School, the courts, the local legal profession and third sector organisations. The CLCs then volunteer for a number of hours each week in local law firms and charitable partner organisations. There is also an official CLC desk in Stoke Combined Court Centre, open Mon-Fri 10am - 12pm and 2pm - 4pm.
On visiting the CLOCK project, Nick Hanning, member of the Civil Justice Council, Working Party for Access to Justice for Litigants-in-Person, noted "The CLOCK “Community Legal Companion” service is an excellent service which epitomises the practical implementation of several of the Working Party's recommendations".