Law Centre NI

Law Centre (NI)

promoting social justice through legal advice,
representation, policy, training and publications

Welcome to our November 2011 e-newsletter. 

We hope you find this information useful.  We would be grateful if you would circulate it to interested colleagues.

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Award for legal adviser

Law Centre AGM

Tribunal reform

Human trafficking

Welfare reform

New training

Health & safety case

 Major award for Law Centre immigration adviser

Lois Hamilton receiving her award from Brian Marsh OBE at the House of Lords

Lois Hamilton, immigration legal adviser at Law Centre (NI), has won the Marsh Christian Award from the Human Trafficking Foundation for outstanding achievement in the field of human trafficking.

She received her award at the House of Lords on 17 October from Brian Marsh OBE.  She travelled to London again the following week for the launch of a book of which she is co-author, Human Trafficking Handbook: Recognising Trafficking and Modern-day Slavery in the UK, published by Lexis Nexis.

AGM 2011

Audience at Law Centre AGM in 2010

How will welfare reform hit incomes in Northern Ireland?  Find out at the Law Centre AGM and seminar on Friday 9 December.

Speaker: James Browne of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Question time panel: Eileen Evason, Chair of the Social Security Standards Committee and Anne McCleary, Head of Social Security Policy and Legislation Division, DSD.

Where: Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action

 When: 9 December, 10am to 1pm, followed by lunch

For more details or to register, contact Ann Cartwright


New proposals on tribunal reform

With financial support from the Nuffield Foundation, the Law Centre commissioned further research from Brian Thompson and Gráinne McKeever as a follow up to their report, published last year, Redressing Tribunal Users’ Disadvantage – Proposals for Tribunal Reform in Northern Ireland.  The original report had identified research gaps, which are now addressed in two reports, Structural Tribunal Reform and Supporting Tribunal Users.  The paper versions are still at the printer’s. Here is a sneak preview:

Structural Tribunal Reform in Northern Ireland, Proposals by Brian Thompson, School of Law, University of Liverpool, published by Law Centre (NI)

Supporting Tribunal Users, Access to pre-hearing information, advice and support in Northern Ireland, by Grainne McKeever, School of Law, University of Ulster, published by Law Centre (NI)



Woman in room

In October, we met the Council of Europe's expert group on trafficking (GRETA) as part of its fact finding mission. We gave evidence on how to make better provision for supporting the needs of victims of trafficking in Northern Ireland.


Welfare reform

Speakers and Law Centre staff at Welfare Reform Seminar

On 3 November, we held a seminar with senior officials from Department for Social Development, Social Security Agency and Department for Employment and Learning on the impact of the welfare reform bill.  The discussion centered on how the Northern Ireland variant of the bill, expected to come to the Assembly in the new year, could to be tailored to reflect local circumstances.

Pictured above are Les Allamby, Director, Law Centre (NI); Anne McCleary, Director of Social Security Policy and Legislation, DSD; Jim Russell, Head of Employment Service, DEL; Laura Niwa, Policy Officer, Law Centre (NI); and Dr Colin Sullivan, Director for Universal Credit, SSA.


Update your training

Some places left in our November and December courses.  Don’t miss your chance.

All our courses carry CPD points for solicitors, barristers and CAB advisers.

7 and 14 November Intro to Immigration Law Belfast

16 and 17 November Advocacy Skills Belfast

30 November Challenging Tax Credit Decisions: Overpayments 1/2 day, Belfast

1 December Mental Health Law Derry

2 December Welfare Rights Adviser Programme Disability Benefits Refresher 1/2 day, Belfast

6 December Mental Health Law  Belfast

For more details, contact, 7126 2433

or visit our website: 


Health and safety whistle-blowing and unfair dismissal

The Law Centre recently negotiated £1,700 compensation for a driver who had been dismissed for his refusal to drive a lorry that he believed to be unsafe.

As the vehicle's reversing lights, rear spotlight and warning siren were out of order, other road users or pedestrians had no way to know that it was about to reverse. Our client had drawn the danger to his employer's attention. After a near-miss with another vehicle, he had told the employer that he would not drive the vehicle again until it was fixed, as he believed it posed a threat to health and safety and that he would be breaking the law driving it. The employer dismissed him for the stand he had taken, even though another driver nearly had an accident with the lorry involving a pedestrian due to these defects.

As the client had not been employed for a year he could not claim ordinary unfair dismissal, and it appeared that this had been a factor in the employer believing that he could be dismissed easily. However we lodged claims of automatic unfair dismissal on his behalf, which do not require a year's service.

Where an employee is dismissed because s/he has made a report about a health and safety issue or taken certain action to avoid an imminent risk to health and safety, then an automatic unfair dismissal claim can arise. It can also be automatic unfair dismissal where an employee is dismissed because s/he has made a public interest disclosure – 'blown the whistle'- that s/he believes the law is being broken.

Our client managed to get another job fairly quickly, but was very angry at the way his employer had behaved and the attitude that had been taken to his legitimate concerns.

The employers contacted us very quickly after legal proceedings were issued and agreed to compensate our client for his loss (£1,700) and to carry out a full review of their systems for dealing with reporting of health and safety issues.

The protections for health and safety reports and whistleblowers are of vital importance in ensuring that workers feel that they can draw attention to dangerous situations or illegal behaviour.