King's Legal Clinic

Educating Our Students By Serving The Community

Our Students’ Journey at the FBE Oratory Competition in Rotterdam – a Q&A Session

Siri and Nizar are both final-year Politics, Philosophy and Law students at KCL. We’re thrilled to hear them share their incredible experience and success after placing second and third respectively at the FBE Oratory Competition held in Rotterdam. Representing the King’s Legal Clinic and the Westminster & Holborn Law Society, they had the honour of competing amongst 20 aspiring and most, already practising, lawyers and barristers from countries across Europe.

Can you tell us a little about the competition and your involvement in it?

“The FBE (Fédération des Barreaux d’Europe) Oratory Competition is a platform where young legal minds from across Europe showcase their advocacy skills. This year’s competition was focused on the theme of ‘The State of Women’s Rights in the World’. This competition was an incredible opportunity for us to put our legal knowledge, advocacy and persuasive abilities to the test. We delivered speeches that we had worked tirelessly on, addressing complex legal issues with passion and precision. On the one hand, Siri delivered a powerful and emotional speech on domestic violence and the upcoming dangers posed by Climate Change for the state of women’s rights. On the other hand, Nizar presented a more poised speech offering a new legal basis for the protection of women’s rights, Gender Equality instead of the Right to Privacy, in order to protect them better and more ethically.

The competition was not just about winning; it was an amazing chance to meet other legal enthusiasts from all over Europe. We engaged in discussions, debates, and formed connections with lawyers, professionals, and students. The international exchange of ideas broadened our perspectives and deepened our understanding of the diverse legal landscapes across the continent.”


What is Rotterdam like, outside of the competition?

“Beyond the competition and the world of law, we had a blast exploring Rotterdam. This city is a unique blend of modern architecture and rich history. We visited iconic landmarks and took in the vibrant culture. And of course, we couldn’t resist indulging in the delightful Dutch street food and pastries – the local food was nothing short of amazing.

Our victory at the FBE Oratory Competition was not just a testament to our dedication and hard work, but also a reflection of the excellent guidance and support we received from King’s Legal Clinic and the University in general. We’re incredibly grateful for the opportunities and mentorship that paved the way for our success. A special thanks also to Professor Sara Chandler KC (Hon) from the Westminster & Holborn Law Society who accompanied us and made this possible.”


What do you hope to do in the future, and was been part of the Clinic motivated you in relation to future career aspirations?

“Winning this competition has left us feeling inspired and motivated to continue our journey in the field of human rights law. Our experiences in Rotterdam have been unforgettable, and we are excited about the future, knowing that we carry the King’s Legal Clinic’s values and spirit with us as we move forward.

We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who we met during the competition. Arguing for the defence of women’s rights globally would not have been as empowering and memorable without all of them. Success is not just our own but a shared achievement – this is why we are very happy that we were able to share between the two of us this achievement. We’re excited to see where this journey takes us next.”

“Poorly implemented, pathetically funded”: A Deeper Look into the Windrush Compensation Scheme

On October 5th, 2022, King’s Legal Clinic, in collaboration with Southwark Law Centre and the Windrush Justice Clinic, hosted a panel of legal experts to explore whether the Windrush Compensation Scheme (WCS) is delivering on its promises of justice to the victims of the Windrush scandal.

The panel comprised of Martin Forde KC (the independent Advisor to the Windrush Compensation Scheme 2018 – 2021), Grace Brown (Barrister at Garden Court Chambers), Jeremy Bloom (Duncan Lewis Solicitor), Anna Steiner (Supervising Solicitor & Lecturer, King’s Legal Clinic, King’s College London), and Glenda Caesar (Windrush campaigner and survivor).

The first half of the event explored the key deficiencies of the WCS, the strategic legal challenges being made, and the critical areas of reform needed. The second half focused on the ongoing impact on claimants and the barriers they face in obtaining to access to justice.

Deficiencies of the Windrush Compensation Scheme and Reforms Needed

While the WCS is functional in terms of policy design, its ineffective implementation renders it toothless for victims seeking compensation for government wrongdoing. The panel identified two main issues with the scheme:

(1) Narrow interpretation of the scheme

The Home Office has consistently adopted a narrow interpretation of the scheme, especially in relation to the power to award discretionary payments. Indeed, while the scheme covers a range of losses (e.g. loss of access to employment; homelessness; impact on life), it also gives decision-makers the power to exercise discretion where established categories do not cover specific fact patterns. In practice, however, the power to award discretionary payments is rarely used – out of 1095 claims for discretionary payments, only 86 payments have been made, meaning that the success rate for these claims is less than 8 percent.

The reluctance of the Home Office to engage with the power to award discretionary payments constitutes one of the main obstacles towards the effective operation of the scheme. The mechanical approach adopted by decision-makers is inadequate for complex cases that do not fall under neatly delineated categories. In fact, cases often spill over multiple heads of loss at varying degrees. The latter means that the exercise of discretion by the decision makers is vital to reflect victims’ experiences adequately.

(2) Restrictive approach to evidence

The Home Office’s restrictive approach to evidence bars victims from seeking their entitled compensation. Indeed, the approach places unreasonably high standards of proof and attaches significant weight to certain types of evidence. Furthermore, the decision-makers’ devaluation of testimonies and hyperfocus on rigid evidence negates the scheme’s effectiveness. This is especially true when considering the circumstances of Windrush victims, who often don’t have access to the type of documents that they are being asked to produce.

The Home Office’s evidentiary approach becomes particularly paradoxical once one understands the government’s role in the evidentiary gap and the lived realities of claimants. Indeed, the Home Office itself has consistently failed to preserve records that would have accelerated the processing of compensation claims. Beyond mere omissions, reports have demonstrated the Home Office’s active role, such as the destruction of thousands of landing cards recording the arrival dates of the Windrush generation in the UK, during Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary. Furthermore, the burden of proof imposed on victims is onerous and does not take into account the fact that most people would have seen no need to hold on to such documents from many years ago as they had no need for them at the time and did not foresee the fact that the introduction of the hostile environment would mean they would be required to verify their legal right to live and work in the UK, when this had not been questioned previously. In addition, some claimants suffer harsh living conditions and psychological and physical trauma induced because of government wrongdoing itself.

Impact on Victims and Access to Justice

The impact of the Windrush scandal on victims is beyond measure. The audience was fortunate enough to hear the testimony of Windrush campaigner and survivor Glenda Caesar. Glenda arrived with her mother in the UK in 1961 from Dominica “as a babe in arms.” She first found out she wasn’t British and could not get a passport after trying to visit her dying mother in the Caribbean in 1998. In 2009, Glenda was sacked from her part-time job as a GP practice administrator because she wasn’t considered “British.” She became a victim of the government’s hostile environment policy. Unable to work or claim benefits for the following ten years, she was forced to rely on her children for support. These living conditions heavily impacted Glenda’s mental health and that of her family members, breaking family bonds and pushing individuals to contemplate suicide.

After filing a compensation claim under the scheme, the Home Office offered Glenda a mere £22,000 for over ten years of unemployment without benefits due to government wrongdoing. Glenda refused the compensation offer, considering it an additional insult to her humanity. After experiencing the dysfunctionalities of the scheme, she started campaigning for Windrush victims and their claims for justice. She says the scheme does not operate for the victims and puts them through additional trauma.

In her co-written report “The Windrush Compensation Scheme: Unmet Need for Legal Advice,” Anna Steiner explores issues of access to justice related to the scheme, with the objective of informing policy and campaigning for victims. The data indicates that the scheme is too complex to complete without legal advice and that the support provided by the Home Office is insufficient. Outside the Windrush Justice Clinic network, the report found very few sources of free and easily accessible legal advice for WCS claimants. Decades of legal aid cuts have exasperated access to justice issues and relegated victims to a subclass of human existence where the computer says “no,” and the government does not care.

One Windrush victim partaking in the research says it best: “From my experiences with the Windrush Compensation Scheme/Home Office, and their responses to my claim, it is almost like they are telling me the following: We are really, really, sorry for punching you in the face, however, we are sure you’ve recovered now, it wasn’t that bad of a punch, so here is another punch in the face, but don’t worry about that one, because you’ve already recovered, please accept some tape and cotton wool to make a plaster out of.”

By Laurent Sammouri

Working on an Amicus Brief re Guantanamo and Reflecting on the Court of Appeals Decision

Handcuffed hands

Politics, Philosophy and Law LLB (4th year) discusses the recent case of Guantanamo detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in which King’s Legal Clinic students conducted research under the supervision of Sue Willman leading to an amicus brief drafted by Dr Philippa Webb and Rosana Garciandia of the Dickson Poon School of Law, which has been said to have a ‘global impact’.

Working at King’s Legal Clinic was a unique experience for me, in that it was my first time contributing to a real case in international human rights law and public international law. It was made clear to us from the very beginning that the task would be a challenging one. Tight deadlines, lots of material to go through, and no room for error. During the first week of research, I worked with other student researchers on secondary sources relating to the use of torture in pre-trial and interlocutory proceedings, going over more than 40 journal articles, legal blogs, and even Twitter threads, to identify trends on the use (or, rather, non-use) of torture evidence. For the second and third weeks, I turned to case law review, looking at common law jurisdictions, and their stance on torture tainted evidence. The collaboration with the rest of the Clinic members was exemplary. We worked methodically and efficiently, dividing jurisdictions between us, and looking at the relevant cases, whilst contributing to a common document to be submitted to our supervisors. I believe we rose to the challenge!

The final task I undertook was working on distinguishing torture evidence from hearsay evidence, and putting together an original argument, drawing from the research of the whole team. Together with Saras Sawhney, we drafted an argument with reference to the Military Commission’s judgement, outlining why torture evidence ought to be treated separately from hearsay, and consequently why the torture prohibition also applies in pre-trial. Overall, it was particularly rewarding to be able to contribute to such a pressing human rights concern, and to know that the work we all put into this experience could be a drive for positive change, and for upholding the rule of law. That is why the recent Court of Appeals decision is so important, both for the present case, but also for human rights law generally.


Is the outcome entirely satisfactory? What should the Department of Justice have done?

The decision of the Biden administration to reverse the approach previously taken by the U.S. Military Commission is certainly a big step in the right direction. The categorical prohibition of evidence obtained by means of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment (CIDT) was upheld by the U.S. Government, reflecting international and domestic legal obligations. The biggest achievement of the recent decision is, in my opinion, the unequivocal pledge by the U.S. government that the prohibition of torture applies to all stages of judicial proceedings.

That being said, and without taking anything away from the importance of the Court of Appeals’ decision, there are a couple of vital questions that remain unanswered. The Al-Nashiri case is not the only case brought before a military commission involving the use of torture-tainted evidence. It is, therefore, particularly interesting to see how pending cases that raise the question of how statements obtained by torture will be treated by the commissions

and the government, and whether the Biden administration is ready and willing to conduct transparent, thorough reviews of torture claims, and adopt similarly brave yet necessary – under domestic and international law – decisions.

This, in turn, raises the bigger question surrounding military commissions as legal institutions. The statement issued by the U.S. government appears to recognize the problem of torture and CIDT facing military commission cases. The question that is necessarily generated, then, is that of reform; and it was unfortunately left unattended by the Court. Is torture bound to poison legal proceedings in future litigation, if no further steps are taken at an administrative level to make legal proceedings more transparent and less politically motivated? Does it safeguard the rights of future detainees? Although satisfactory on the facts of the present case, it seems like the Court could have looked at the bigger picture and seek to take positive steps to fortify the legal system, so as to not leave any room for torture evidence to sneak through the back door.

This is not to downplay the significance of the present judgement, as I believe it is a manifest endorsement of the fundamental human right of freedom from torture. It remains to be seen, however, whether this decision can be a drive for positive change in the U.S. legal system, so as to better safeguard the rights of prisoners and detainees in future.

By Stefanos Arvanitakis

Volunteering at the Youth Justice Legal Centre

I’m Emilia and I have just completed my LLB in Politics, Philosophy and Law at King’s. in 2020. I was a research volunteer at the Youth Justice Legal Centre (YJLC), a part of the charity Just for Kids Law. The YJLC provides information, guidance and training on youth justice law and process.

My experience there was very valuable to me as these topics are not formally taught at King’s and in most other law schools. Youth justice is generally considered more niche by lawyers – neither the LPC nor the BPTC have compulsory youth justice training. While the youth justice system has evolved out of the wider criminal justice system, there are nonetheless distinctive rules and procedures designed to safeguard children. For example, the aim in this area of law is different to the wider criminal justice system – the welfare and rehabilitation of the child is regarded as central. I therefore got to engage with and learn a whole new set of rules in a very practical way.

My role as a research volunteer primarily involved writing legal updates. These would be on new judgments which would be helpful to practitioners, as well as on important reports and publications, for example by the Ministry of Justice or NGOs. The judgments were varied and always interesting. They often dealt with sentencing decisions rather than the actual conviction and were therefore quite different from those I was used to reading. While I have not covered sentencing law and guidelines during my studies, this is obviously hugely important to lawyers, and so it gave me an insight into what practising in this area actually looked like. Reading reports on the state of the justice system also highlighted to me its flaws, and how recent changes to it have impacted vulnerable children. For these reasons, I think those who are interested in helping vulnerable individuals and wider pro bono work would really benefit from and enjoy volunteering at the YJLC.

Finally, the team who oversaw me and provided me with feedback were all friendly, welcoming and leading practitioners in the field. I was very grateful for the opportunity to have my writing published on their website and to be overseen by experts.

Emilia Pearson

LLB Politics, Philosophy and Law

My Experience as a Module Student with King’s Legal Clinic

The main reason I chose Legal Clinic as a law module in my final year is because I really wanted to see law in action. With all my other law modules, my understanding of the law had been from reading about it in textbooks, rather than seeing it applied in practice. I always wanted to go into Law as a career, but I had never experienced what this would involve. Legal Clinic therefore offered something completely different to what I had been used to in my degree. One of the best things for me was there was a huge variety of the types of cases available to work on.

Over the year I did four cases in my team, and each one was completely different to the other. there was a case dealing with the alleged negligent conduct of a bank; an immigration case where the client facing deportation was seeking leave to remain to stay with their family; a property dispute surrounding the leasehold rights over a block of flats; and finally, a very sensitive family case concerning the contact arrangements for a child between divorced parents.

Although I was familiar with certain areas of law prior to the case commencing, the cases could be complex and required a lot more in-depth research. Certain issues would seem relatively straightforward on paper, but then quickly became much more complicated to resolve. For example, finding out the rules surrounding when a bank would be considered liable in negligence to their customer, or whether a leaseholder in the top floor of flats had property rights over the loft space. Though this made it challenging at times, I developed a much wider understanding of law which I would not have encountered doing my usual academic law modules.

The experience did push me out of my comfort zone at times. Leading an interview with a client is initially quite daunting, especially when you are discussing quite sensitive matters, such as with the family case interview where there were allegations of domestic abuse. However, I found interviewing clients not only gave me more confidence in interacting with clients generally, but it also gave me greater insight into the legal issues people commonly face. I became more aware of how many in the community lack access to legal support and information and how a lot of our clients were litigants in person who faced going to court alone.

So, although it was difficult when informing a client that unfortunately there was little they could do about their legal situation, especially when they had been through a lot of hardship, it was all the more rewarding when providing a client with advice which could make a real difference to their case. Overall, I liked how nothing was ever routine or predictable doing the cases for Legal Clinic; circumstances and issues would keep changing, and this kept it much more interesting for me.

Now that I have finished university, I feel the skills I developed doing the Legal Clinic module have benefited me in the workplace. Currently, I working as an intern for the Her Majesties Court & Tribunal Service and I feel, not only do I better manage the administrative and organisational aspects of the position, but I have more confidence in interacting with customers to resolve their issues. In the future I hope to practice law professionally, and I know these interpersonal skills especially will be hugely important in being a good lawyer and helping clients.

Written By:

Charlotte Pagett (Legal Clinic – Module Student 2019/20)

My experience as a volunteer with Support Through Court

I’m Caterina and I am completing my LLB in Politics, Philosophy and Law at KCL. I am half Italian and half Russian and have been interested in the charity and pro bono sector for a while now. Next year I will be studying an MSc in International Social and Public Policy, focussing on NGO activity.

I got involved with the legal clinic at King’s as a Student Adviser and was immediately struck by how many other extracurricular activities and projects were on offer. Support Through Court seemed a great opportunity to get a better understanding of the legal system in practice. I enjoyed volunteering more than I anticipated and I found it a very well-rounded experience. I learned a lot about court procedure and structure and how best to tactfully help a stranger struggling emotionally.

Some of the clients knew what their main argument was going to be in court but struggled to frame the argument in a skeleton argument or in a professional format. In terms of legal content volunteering at the Royal Courts of Justice especially exposed me to a wide variety of practice areas.

On one occasion, I remember helping five clients in one day with disputes ranging from money claims, to a probate case with jurisdictional issues in France, a disability discrimination in the workplace claim, and a contractual misrepresentation. In a single day as a volunteer, there is simply no limit to the variety of areas of law that you might be enriched in, some of which you might not have even studied during your LLB!

Overall, the role is to make the experience of preparing for and being in court less traumatic and negative. A lot of clients were overwhelmed by the whole process of going to court and found themselves in need of more basic practical help, for instance in navigating the building and the different offices, finding the right form and making sure everything is filled out correctly and sent to the right place. Walking with them rather than having a dismissive attitude is something they appreciated.

Given the stress of the situation for the client, as a volunteer you can contribute a lot even just by making them a cup of tea and letting them talk for a while about their story, struggles and sense of unfairness – something I felt came up in most of these cases.

We also brought comfort by making the tasks look easier and explaining with more positive language what we can do to help them complete their tasks. This often relieved the anxiety clients felt about the procedural aspect. In my experience, even praising them for how far they’ve come, how wellorganised their bundle and documents are, went a long way when a client was tired of feeling unheard. For the same reason, it was extremely important to always be listening actively, taking notes, with their permission, if the story seemed complex, to give them a sense of interest and validation they might not have felt in court.

Support Through Court offices have had to close their doors during the coronavirus pandemic and all face-to-face support has been suspended for the time being. While the world seems to have stopped for some, time certainly has not stopped running for those seeking justice and those who need charities to facilitate their access to it. Just like the King’s Legal Clinic was immediately trying to move their work online, so was Support Through Court, who had recently established a phone helpline to try and help clients remotely.

Something I did not expect to find as a student volunteer but was a very core similarity among the clients was the aversion towards technology. A lot of the Support Through Court
clients are elderly people, who might have disabilities or resource issues which can make any task a lot harder than it might otherwise be.

There are a series of issues which the closure of the office and remote contact may have caused the clients:

When the problem, or rather, the situation they need the most help with is primarily emotional support, my experience taught me it would be difficult for clients to pick up the phone. Some take time and a couple minutes silence or reassurance on the volunteer’s part to even start talking, and that is very difficult over the phone.

Some clients might have children or live in a busy household where calling privately might not even be a practical option. 

I can envisage the clients that are struggling the most right now would be those that simply walk into the office and ask a volunteer to help them understand a document they have been sent – be it a court order or a skeleton argument from the other side. 

All of the above could be compounded by not understanding English well, if English is not their first language.

What a lot of clients want and need is a frank honest discussion with a person who, within limits, understands their story and what the next steps for them are, in what could be a very important and difficult time for them. While the phoneline volunteers I’m sure are doing an excellent job, there are definitely some clients who need face-to-face support.

I am very grateful to the clinic for connecting me with Support Through Court as I found volunteering a formative experience and I really respect the work the charity does having been given the opportunity to understand it better.

On a personal level, this was a good reminder that emotional intelligence is an asset in the legal world and that it is possible to improve on rapport-building skills through practice. I have a newfound appreciation for listening actively and taking tasks a bit slower to really understand when helping someone.   

Written by:

Caterina Cedolini, Politics Philosophy and Law LLB


For more information on Support Through Court please visit: 

My Experience as a Student Administrator for King’s Legal Clinic

I’ve just completed my first year as an undergraduate on the LLB program at King’s College London. On arrival during my orientation week, I was met with a plethora of different opportunities the university had to offer and was ultimately sold after listening to a presentation a student working with the Legal Clinic delivered.

As a fresh Law student studying abroad, it is axiomatic I came with the intention of wanting to participate in all of the opportunities possible and this meant signing up to almost anything which was of interest to me (pro tip: sign up for everything before the uni work starts piling up!).

The Legal Clinic provides several different volunteer roles which include being a student adviser, student administrator, or both. First-years are likely to have less experience with substantive Law at the beginning and  as a result we are only able to apply for the role as a student administrator.

As a summary, the role includes working with guidance from qualified, professional lawyers to take a note of client enquiries, ensuring all of their information is suitable for the clinic to take on the case, and following up with clients wherever necessary.    Admittedly, after being accepted to take on the role, I was unquestionably excited to start but at the same time a little anxious as I had never actually dealt with real-life clients before.

In this case, even though each student received training prior to beginning the position, I felt it was only once I started the practice itself I was able to develop confidence in communicating with clients.    As a whole, working for a clinic which provides free legal service to almost everyone from the general public meant that I was faced with situations where I had to communicate with people from different backgrounds to my own.

Arguably one of the most difficult scenarios I was in was when I was following up with a client in order to draw some missing information from him. Whilst speaking to him, I noticed this case was of sensitive and personal value to him and I had to be wary not to push him too strongly into revealing facts about his case which he perhaps didn’t want to disclose. Being in this situation, in particular, was a big learning experience for me because it was the first time that I had to alter the ‘script’ (which includes a guideline of the questions to ask all clients) in a sense and tailor it to his particular scenario instead.

Having dealt with that not only boosted my confidence within the role at the clinic but also pushed me to enhance my quick-thinking and communicative skills which I believe are essential towards the study of Law. The differing natures of each case we deal with every time we walk into the clinic, whether it be a family, housing, or general inquiry, means that we must adapt to the various circumstances in order to properly succeed in the role.

By studying Law for the first time simultaneously, I was undeniably able to gain an understanding of the difference between Law in theory and in practice as well as put together the knowledge that I had just learnt into better understanding the cases I was dealing with.

Overall, for anyone who’s looking to gain exposure to the legal sector, this role is perfect in doing so.

Written by Pasha Mirpuri (upcoming LLB Law Year 2)

Air Pollution – A Climate Justice Issue

What is the reality and what you can do about it?

The issue at hand

On Monday 18th November 2019, around 40 Law Clinics across the globe, who have committed to the Climate Justice Pledge participated in the inaugural global day of action. These law clinics recognise that climate change is one of the most significant justice issues of our time but not everyone feels its effects in the same way. Women, minorities and more vulnerable or marginalized people are disproportionately affected.

We need to ask ourselves, as citizens, as law students and practitioners – are we thinking about the legal and policy solutions to climate change? Are we enabling all facets of society to be a part of the solution?

The King’s Legal Clinic (KLC) has started to tackle these questions. KLC organised an event entitled Air Pollution: What is the reality and what can you do about it?. We heard from speakers Professor Martin Williams, who is an Air Quality Scientist within the Analytical, Environmental & Forensic Sciences department at King’s College London, and Ms. Jenny Bates, an Air Pollution Campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

Prof. Williams provided an overview of the problems linked to air pollution and their potential solutions. He addressed the topic under the light of the most recently published research and policy initiatives put forward in the field.

Ms. Bates discussed how activists have pushed for action at a local level around the globe and where progress remains a requirement for positive change. She also addressed the inherent inequalities which the lack of effective government policy has accentuated as different groups in society, especially the more vulnerable, are disproportionately affected by poor air quality.

London, we have a (transport) problem

Air pollution is a classic common action problem, like climate change. Individual cars and companies contribute to pollution which harms us all, but responsibility is thinly spread. Air pollution and climate change are also invariably linked through their overlapping causes and how the solutions to one can positively affect the other.

Prof. Williams spoke about the classic example of diesel fuel. Transport has become one of the main sources of carbon monoxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and is also understood to be one of the main culprits of air pollution in urban areas through the release of noxious pollutants. These notably include nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PMx). As such, transport has become a central concern for environmental policy-makers and regulators. Its presence and importance in people’s everyday lives means that solutions have to be sensibly implemented, whilst taking into account various factors including social acceptance.

As Ms. Bates pointed out, cities that embrace greener transport systems – electric vehicle charging points, more buses, cycle lanes or pedestrianised areas – have also seen parallel positive effects including general increase in wellbeing. Initially, when road facilities for cars are taken away, a transitional period can lead to what seems like more traffic, fumes escaping from idling cars and confusion. However, Ms. Bates explained these have shown to be temporary problems, if the appropriate alternative transport methods are put into place.

Ultimately, a decrease in the number of cars on the road and miles driven needs to happen especially since, as Prof. Williams pointed out, evidence points to Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) being one of the most effective measures to decrease air pollution.

Air pollution and its known adverse health effects

As our understanding of the science behind air pollution has increased – Williams noted “…the more research is done, the more evidence we find” for the relationship between concentration of pollutants and risk of death – it has become a pressing public health issue.

Londoners’ concerns with pollution in their city have gone from the mounting price of their laundry bill because of water pollution[1] to how air quality affects the stunted development of children’s lungs[2]. Laws like the Clear Air Act 1956 (the legislative response to “The Great Smog”) have helped, but a recent Royal College of Physicians report shows us there are still around 40 000 deaths a year attributable to air pollution.

Air pollution can be a difficult problem to portray. Its effects are insidious and can appear in the long-term. The personalisation of air pollution and its negative health impacts has become an important part of the activism dedicated to finding solutions. Ms. Bates spoke of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation, started in memory of Ella Roberta after she died of a severe asthma attack. Her mother, whose request for a second inquest investigating the link between Ella’s asthma attack and the illegal air pollution levels in her area was granted, wants poor air quality to be cited as one of her daughter’s causes of death. Ella lived 25 metres from London’s South Circular road.

A 2013 report[3] commissioned by the Greater London Authority found that 82% of the primary schools located in areas where Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels were above the EU legal limit were considered deprived.[4] Black, Mixed or “Other” ethnic groups were also found to be more likely to be exposed to unsafe levels of NO2. Whilst NO2 levels have been decreasing, similar findings apply to Particulate Matters (PM), which are known to increase the risk of heart attacks and respiratory diseases and have been linked to premature death. This clearly shows that people from socioeconomic disadvantaged backgrounds are at higher risk of harm from air pollution, as are BME people. These findings undoubtedly highlight some of the inherent inequalities and injustices within our society. Future policies that don’t directly ask the questions “who mostly uses public transport?” and “who lives near busy roads?” fail to acknowledge these climate justice issues and inequalities.

When we think about these questions, we have to acknowledge the existing health inequalities and other injustices. Our solutions must rise to these challenges to ensure a fairer and healthier future for all.

Air pollution and climate justice – who does it affect and where?

Air pollution is not just an issue in cities in the ‘Global North’, nor is it unique to urban areas.

China and India have both had to tackle with acute air pollution. Pictures of the smog in Beijing, as well as social media posts tagged with #HelpDelhiBreathe have circulated around the globe. These issues with air pollution have been important drivers in China’s and India’s national climate policies

In rural areas, indoor air pollution is an important cause of death. UN Women estimates there were over 4 million premature deaths in 2012 from indoor air pollution[5] by cooking with solid fuels; 60% of which were women and girls. As women in some regions are traditionally responsible for their home’s energy collection and use, for example through the collection and burning of firewood, they are essential actors to attaining effective solutions that they also have most to gain from.

The negative effects of climate change, especially as manifested through their adverse effect on health, will continue to be a deeply impactful climate justice issue until effective and inclusive solutions are brought forward at local and national levels. Solutions that are not only normatively more attractive – taking care of the most vulnerable, amplifying voices of communities which have historically been silenced – but more likely to succeed on the policy field. The power of grassroots movements and including people we may not think have an interest in the climate has proven to have a strong impact. It is also understood that climate litigation, similar to the cases brought by ClientEarth challenging the UK’s illegal air pollution levels, is most effective or even dependent on citizens’ mobilisation.[6]

Solutions to air pollution and other climate justice issues need be participatory to be successful.

Striving for better solutions

Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge currently facing humankind, but not everyone is affected in the same way. Women, minorities and more vulnerable or marginalized people are disproportionately at risk. We found out that air pollution follows a similar pattern.

The event ended with a Q&A session which saw a series of diverse and interesting questions arise from an engaged but concerned audience. There was active discussion that showed people are passionate about these issues. The general themes which ran through these questions were “what can we do to make this better?” and “how can the law and lawyers help in finding effective, sustainable, long-term solutions?”.

Prof. Williams and Ms. Bates pointed to research and recent policy efforts, better monitoring and public awareness, local initiatives, implementation of legislation, and legal challenges which have helped to improve air quality. Nevertheless, they both agreed there was still much work to be done, and political will and effective funding was still lacking. While commenting on the importance of lawyers to fight for better air quality, they emphasized the importance of legal standards – the solid ground on which organisations like ClientEarth have brought spearheading legal claims – even where the science is certain. With an Environmental Bill[7] which has not been deemed “fit for purpose”[8], according to critics, and a near-future where the UK may no longer have to adhere to the environmental standards of the EU[9], we could be losing important elements required to hold authorities legally accountable for their negative actions towards our planet.

Whether at a local or global level, it is clear we need continued citizen attention and pressure, as well as clever lawyering, to keep the issue of air pollution on the political agenda, pushing for inclusive solutions for healthier and cleaner air for all.

Written by Lucia Saborio Perez




[1] House of Commons Debate, 23 May 1871, volume 206, column 1220

When discussing the water supply in London and the pollution of its rivers, Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth said “The question, as affecting laundries and the washing of linen, was important. They spent a great deal more in the washing of their shirts than they did in buying them. The total expenditure for soap in London was £1,000,000 a-year”.

[2] House of Commons Debate, 28 June 2018, volume 643, column 1120

During a debate on improving air quality, Dr. Philippa Whitford explained that “Some 4.5 million children—a third of them—are exposed to unsafe levels [of particulate matters]. If they live near a busy road, they have twice the rate of respiratory problems. We are talking not only about asthma, the obvious one, but about reduced lung development”.


[4] In the UK, schools considered to be deprived are those with higher percentages of pupils who are eligible for free school meals.


[6] ; Talk given by Professor Neil Gunningham at Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London, ‘Averting Climate Catastrophe: Extinction Rebellion, Business & People Power’, 13 September 2019

[7] Environment Bill 2019


[9] Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill 2018


Evidence and Strategic Litigation – My Volunteer Experience

I applied to volunteer with King’s Legal Clinic working on its Evidence & Strategic Litigation research project in the previous academic year. The opportunity to take part in research based volunteering, especially within the context of evidence laws and case construction – an area that is at the core of all legal work – was an opportunity I could not pass up. We were set up in pairs, asked to look into a particular practice and collect as much information on how it works as we could. I was assigned to research asset deprivation powers that local councils have and are using on the elderly going into social care. This is an issue that many, sometimes unwittingly, fall into and it has been reported on by AgeUK and other charities/institutions.

As part of what we did, we submitted multiple Freedom of Information requests to local councils, we got in touch with charities that cater for the elderly, we ran through blogs and social media posts to find out more about what people who have been affected have gone through, and we contacted local news outlets that have reported on the matter. Our end product was a report that we submitted to the project leader that included experiential evidence that we collected from the personal accounts that people have shared, policy materials evidence as reported by the local councils, and statistical evidence on the numbers of people the power was used on and how much the councils obtained as a result.

The experience that I got working with the legal clinic on this project is something you do not get enough of throughout your time in law school. Beyond the ‘issue-rule-result’ format, I got to see how the issue comes to light and is found in the first place. I learned what it takes in terms of research to be able to successful show how the issue you identify works, who it is affecting and what could be done differently. I was able to understand a lot more what it is like putting together the right information and the type of information it takes for a case to come together. Research based volunteering experience is something I definitely would recommend all law students to do as part of their studies – they’ll be able to learn a lot more about how work in the legal sector is.


Salman Shaeen, LLB Graduate

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