Under the banner ‘Supporting access to justice in the Midlands’ 10 teams of walkers from law firms, barristers' chambers as well as the voluntary and advice sector came together to raise funds for the Midland Legal Support Trust (MLST) and other local free legal advice charities. Walkers were joined by the High Sheriff of Northamptonshire, Caroline Brocklehurst along with seven senior members of the local Judiciary.
The 10km route took in the lovely river sights the city had to offer, with many walkers remarking they saw a side to the city they hadn’t seen before. The weather was bright and breezy; a perfect spring day to stride out and raise money for a vital cause.
Walkers taking part fundraised for the cause by seeking sponsorship and in addition to this the event was supported by sponsors; Junior Lawyers of Northants & Bucks and Northamptonshire Law Society who, along with Hewistons sponsored the welcoming finishing line reception, at the Elgin House, gratefully received by thirsty walkers.
Alongside some well-deserved refreshments walkers were welcomed back by the lead walkers who spoke about the growing importance of continuing free legal advice and support for the free legal advice sector and individuals who rely on their services.
The event is run by the Midland Legal Support Trust (MLST). The MLST was formed in 2010 to raise and distribute funds to support the provision of free legal advice in Northampton and throughout the Midlands to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it. It is part of a network of Legal Support Trusts, working with the Access to Justice Foundaton, to facilitate the access to specialist legal advice for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the community.
The organisations supported by the event make a huge difference in the lives of many people. The recent cuts to civil legal aid have not only affected the legal profession, but have also drastically impacted the services provided to members of the public.
The Central and East Northamptonshire Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is a local charity which provides a range of free legal advice and support in and around Northampton to some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens who often seek their services as a desperate last resort. By participating in the Northampton Legal Walk, the CAB were able to fundraise directly to support their work, to show their support, the MLST will be match funding any donations made to the CAB fundraising team.
Cuts to legal aid and local government funding of advice services means charities such as these are fighting to survive. Some organisations have merged, meaning already tight resources are being stretched over greater distances, but more frequently, others have ceased to provide services altogether.
A representative from the MLST said “We are truly delighted that the Northhampton Legal Walk has had a record breaking year with more people coming out to support access to justice for the most vulnerable and more funds being raised to support the vital services when help these people in their time of need. Thanks to all our walkers, supporters and sponsors the MLST will be able to make more and larger grants than ever before, ensuring local services benefit from local support."