Legal help: where to go and how to pay

Individuals and groups who are interested in using the law to protect animals, either through private prosecutions, public law challenges or other forms of litigation, should find useful this Commons Library briefing paper (published on 15 June 2018) ‘Legal help: where to go and how to pay’, which provides information about sources of legal help and advice, and how to pay for it, including:

  • Finding legal help;
  • Self-representation;
  • Legal aid;
  • Pro bono legal help;
  • Other ways of finding legal advice, including organisations which provide help and advice
    in connection with specific legal issues.

The paper recommends that legal help or advice should be given by a suitably qualified person with professional liability insurance.

A-law is not able to provide legal advice, but can sometimes help individuals or NGO’s find appropriate advice or representation for matters concerning the adequacy or enforcement of animal protection laws.

We would add the following comments to the paper, which is an excellent introduction to this topic for laypersons.

Firstly, paragraph 1.1 describes how to find a solicitor to provide advice or representation. In our experience, when searching for a solicitor to advise on an animal protection matter, it is important to find the right person, who has the experience in the field that you are concerned about. For example, there are some solicitors who specialise in equine law and can help with contractual disputes or other issues around horses. There are also specialists in dog law, who can advise on matters concerning the dangerous dogs legislation and liabilities arising from dog ownership. If your concern is around the acts or omissions of a Government body, it will be necessary to find a specialist in public law and desirable to find someone who has experience in animal protection, although there are only a handful of such specialists. Matters concerning potential criminal liability (including charges arising out of protest activity) should be referred to someone with expertise in criminal law and procedure; again preferably someone who has experience defending the type of offence with which you are or face being charged with. A-law can help you find someone, if you exhaust other routes.

Section 1.4 refers to ‘Advice Now’, a website which provides online guides on a range of issues. This site contains much helpful information, including a category on ‘Environment and countryside’, which has links to information on topics including agriculture, animal health, animal rights, farm animals, pets, wild animals, environmental protection and more.

Section 1.6 lists sources of pro bono (free) legal help, including The Bar Pro Bono Unit, LawWorks (the Solicitors Pro Bono group) and The Free Representation Unit (FRU). Of these, it is worth pointing out that FRU is unlikely to be useful to anyone with an animal welfare case, unless the issue arises or is related in some way to employment, social security or claims for criminal injury compensation.

LawWorks excludes from its scope ‘animal welfare and environmental organisations.’

The Bar Pro Bono unit The Bar Pro Bono Unit ‘will consider applications in any area of law, in any area of England and Wales.’ It defines ‘Pro Bono Legal Work’ as meaning ‘legal advice or representation provided by lawyers to individuals and community groups who cannot afford to pay for that advice or representation and where public funding is not available.’ There is no specific exclusion for animal welfare organisations.

Section 3 contains information about paying for legal advice and outlines the different payment options. If a potential case raises an issue of public interest, some groups and individuals have found crowd funding platforms useful to raise funds. There is a crowd funding platform specifically for litigation and the team there will be happy to guide you about how to use the platform successfully to raise funds to cover the costs of litigation – https://www.crowdjustice.com

We would commend the Commons Library briefing paper as a useful guide in the first instance to anyone seeking legal advice or assistance.

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