Dr S Chelvan, Head of Immigration and Public Law at 33 Bedford Row Chambers gave evidence yesterday, 28 January 2021, to the Westminster Commission on Legal Aid ‘Inquiry into the Sustainability and Recovery of the Legal Aid Sector’ session on ‘The Publicly Funded Bar’.
Dr Chelvan shared his knowledge and experience of being an Activist Lawyer for the past two decades with the panel, chaired by James Daly MP. Fellow commissioners on the panel for this session included Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Baroness Natalie Bennett, Lord Willy Bach, Andy Slaughter MP, Gareth Bacon MP, and Laura Farris MP.
In response to questions asked by Vice-Chair Andy Slaughter MP, Dr Chelvan outlined the various factors he suggested would improve the lived experience of barristers at the Legal Aid Bar, including increasing funding for Access to Legal Aid. This includes access to expert legal representation for all, specifically including individuals claiming asylum, and those currently without legal aid funding challenging negative Home Office immigration decisions. Dr Chelvan views his dual-role as a storyteller and an interpreter, interpreting for his clients the ‘foreign language we call the law’. He additionally highlighted the thrill of working in legal aid, empowering his clients - changing lives – and saving lives.
James Daly MP, responding to Dr Chelvan’s evidence said:
“I think that you should be the advertisement for every young person who wants to be a lawyer. You have just described in the last 5, 10 minutes the reasons why, the reasons why I became a legal aid lawyer.”
To view the recording of the session, please click here (Dr Chelvan’s evidence is from 1 hour 3 minutes to 1 hour 24 minutes).
The Inquiry’s website can be accessed by clicking on the link here.