Charity aims to support access to justice

A new charity supporting access to justice across Norfolk has been launched in Norwich.

Supporters of Norfolk Community Law Service (SNCLS) will raise money for the organisation founded more than 30 years ago to offer legal advice and representation to people who might otherwise not be able to afford or access it.

Norfolk Community Law Service (NCLS) recently expanded its work to cover the whole of the county, offering services including free legal advice, housing repossession advice and assistance, advice for domestic abuse vic-tims, help for migrant workers and targeted debt advice for offenders and young people.

Leading members of the community who gathered for the event at The Hostry, Norwich Cathedral, were last night told that NCLS, like many other charities, faced an uncertain future, particularly in the wake of today's Comprehensive Spending Review.

Ros Brown, general manager of NCLS, said: 'We're very dependent on funding from both central and local government, and rather concerned about the spending review.

'We have heard a lot about 'Big Society' and could indeed benefit from this, but it's not yet clear what mechanism the government will put in place to allow this.'

Ben Keane, chairman of NCLS, said: 'We were formed to meet unmet legal aid needs and give access to justice. When I first came to Norwich most firms had extensive legal aid practices, giving legal aid across the board. That would not be the case now.

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'That is why it is crucial that there are organisations such as ours.'

Guest speaker at the event was William Armstrong, the Norfolk coroner, a past chairman of NCLS. He said: 'I am delighted that the new supporters organisation will be raising money to help ensure that its valuable work contin-ues.'

Jacqueline Middleton, who is chairing the SNCLS committee, said: 'I hope many people will want to become members, not only to raise money in support of NCLS but also to enjoy a varied programme of events and lectures.'

A twice-yearly newsletter will update supporters on the work of the organisation as it identifies and attempts to fill gaps in legal services.