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Wendy Pettifer retires from HCLC


Wendy 2HCLC is saying au revoir (but not goodbye) to our wonderful Senior Housing Solicitor Wendy Pettifer (pictured right) who is retiring from HCLC.


Wendy, a local Hackney resident since 1970, joined HCLC as a Senior Housing Solicitor in 2009. She had already served on HCLC's Management Committee (now the Board of Directors) between 1980 and 2007.


Wendy chose to join HCLC after working in private practice and at the College of Law. She says she felt that she wanted to give something back and help her local Hackney community through her legal skills.


Over the course of her career, Wendy has taken cases involving homelessness, serious disrepair, migrant women and children at the highest levels. One such case was the House of Lords case of 'Harrow v Fahia' which expanded the definition of settled accommodation to include people who had not possessed a formal tenancy at the time they became homeless.


As a housing solicitor at HCLC, and trustee of the Hackney Migrant Centre (HMC) since 2007, Wendy has taken a great interest in representing migrant women and children who are particularly vulnerable because they have no recourse to public funds and therefore no access to mainstream support services including homelessness services.


Wendy was instrumental in commissioning and advising on HCLC and HMC's 'A Place to Call Home' report, which we launched in December 2015. Outside of work, Wendy has been an active social justice campaigner and international legal observer. She sits on the Executive of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, is a member of the Greek Solidarity campaign and between 2009 and 2011 travelled regularly to Tunisia with REMDH, a European network of human rights lawyers, to collate first-hand witness and documentary evidence of human rights abuses being perpetrated by the President Ben Ali regime.


Wendy says that the most enjoyable thing about working at HCLC has been to combine her specialist legal skills with community activism and though she may be retiring from the law centre she will not be putting her feet up in any way!


Wendy plans to remain active in community housing campaigns across London, will also spend time in Calais working with unaccompanied migrant children with familial links to the UK and she also plans to spend more time developing her talent for creative writing.


Commenting on her retirement, Wendy Pettifer said: "I was proud to end my full time career working with colleagues at Hackney Community Law Centre who remain committed to fighting for access to justice in the face of legal aid cuts, hostile legislation and impoverished courts and local authorities. Thanks to Ian Rathbone for his support and to Hackney council for theirs."


HCLC Chair Ian Rathbone said: "Wendy Pettifer has been a faithful supporter of law centres and their ethos from early in her career as a lawyer and in these present dark days of legal aid cuts and blocking the needy from access to the justice system, she has continued to shine a light for justice to be available to all. She has helped many trainees and juniors to understand the changing complexities of the housing and welfare system and of the law generally. And given them a political education at the same time! She does not mince her words and has been forthright in her political standpoint down the years. She has spoken from her heart. And why not? Lawyers have political views about the injustices they see in their work and in the system. Why should they not fight for a better system of justice that is accessible for all?


In 2014, Wendy wrote an article about her deep concern that society is going backwards to the 1960s when the drama documentary ‘Cathy Come Home’ revealed what happens to the victims of an inadequate welfare system. Wendy wrote: “I started working in the legal field at a time when the BBC documentary Cathy Come Home was still having its shocking impact on a society which had no idea how the other half lived and became homeless. I have battled against injustice in housing ever since and continue to struggle with my extraordinary colleagues to keep Hackney Law Centre going. When I and others like me retire, who will continue the fight to keep such families safe and in the public eye, in the light of insurmountable obstacles?


We know that the law centres network will go on fighting, along with others, but it is a challenge thrown down which today’s lawyers (and other professionals) need to seriously consider. It may not be the path to riches or legal glory, but the path to helping those in need, those at the bottom of the pile – and it is this caring that is the real hallmark of democracy, and in the end, is the most rewarding and fulfilling. Wendy took that challenge at the start of her career. There will be many many clients and others who are very grateful she did, and was there for them in their time of desperate need. And many colleagues who have been inspired in working alongside her. Wendy is a model of what it means to serve others, and fight for their rights and for fairness in an unfair society. I hope that there will many others who will follow on from her as we continue to struggle for a better society, one which was envisioned all those years ago by Wendy and lawyers like her, in setting up law centres."

***We wish Wendy Pettifer a brilliant retirement and an exciting next life chapter!***