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Case of the Year 2012

Case of the Year 2012: Winner

In brief: A widowed mother and her four children were wrongly evicted from their house by their local council. The family were unable to regain access to their home until they received the support of a law centre that receives funding grants from LLST.

Mrs A is a widow with four children. Her husband died in tragic circumstances on the day that her youngest child was born. Since her husband's death, Mrs A's mental health has seriously deteriorated and at one stage she was forced to undergo hospital treatment whilst her children were cared for by social services.

Her family are in full-time education and her youngest child is nine years old with a disability. The family are reliant upon housing and welfare benefits, and live in council accommodation. However, due to problems with the family's welfare payments, their housing benefits were removed and Mrs A was unable to pay her rent to the local authority.

One morning, without any warning, bailiffs arrived at the family home. Mrs A had received no consultation from the local council, despite the fact that they were aware that the children had previously been in the care of social services.  The family were evicted from their home with no belongings other than the clothes that they were wearing. The family desperately required help and, with no other options available to them, they went to their law centre.

The law centre acted quickly to find interim accommodation for the family and made an urgent application to court on their behalf. The judge held that the local authority had failed the family in many respects and ordered that the family should be allowed back into their home immediately. The rent arrears were also cleared using the housing benefits that had wrongly been withheld. The vulnerable family were finally able to resolve their problems with the help of their law centre.

Case of the Year 2012: Runner-Up

In brief: A London-based charity helped a young, vulnerable Ugandan woman affected by HIV to escape persecution, physical and sexual abuse, and potentially life imprisonment in her home country.

As a lesbian growing up in a country with little tolerance for homosexuality, Elizabeth*experienced abuse and discrimination from a young age. She was attacked and tortured at home and at school upon the discovery of her sexuality.  Elizabeth was just sixteen years old when she was forced to marry a violent man who subjected her to physical and sexual abuse. Elizabeth gave birth to four children during her marriage. Elizabeth's sexuality was later discovered by the wider community and, as a result, she was arrested and detained by the police. During her detention, she was repeatedly raped and tortured until her eventual release which was secured by bribing the authorities.

Elizabeth was invited to attend a work-related conference in the UK. Terrified of being sent back to Uganda, she remained in the UK for three years before making contact with the authorities. By this time, Elizabeth was becoming increasingly ill and a visit to a drop-in clinic for vulnerable migrants confirmed that she was HIV positive. Elizabeth suspected that her husband's infidelities were the cause of her illness. Elizabeth was referred to a charity that supports those who are affected by HIV. She attended their pro bono legal clinic and received advice on making an asylum application.

The volunteers who worked on Elizabeth's case were aware of the many risks that faced her if she was to be returned to Uganda. Returning to her local community and family would have potentially placed her in great danger. Furthermore, Uganda's proposed laws against homosexuality threatened life imprisonment and the volunteers were aware of numerous reports of homosexuals being reported and beaten to death by their communities. Also, being HIV positive was an additional cause for concern, as Elizabeth may have been unable to access medication and she may have been excluded from her community.  Returning Elizabeth to Uganda would have negatively impacted her health and well-being and would have drastically reduced her life expectancy. However, as a result of the legal representation that she received and the tireless efforts made by volunteers on her behalf, Elizabeth was permitted to remain with the United Kingdom.



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