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HCLC welcomes Justice First Fellow Mark McDonald-Loncke!


Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC) is delighted to welcome Mark McDonald-Loncke to the Centre as our new Justice First Fellow!


Mark applied to become a JFF at HCLC in the autumn of 2017. Interviews were held in November 2017 and Mark was selected.


The Justice First Fellowship Scheme was established in 2014 to support the next generation of students committed to public interest and social justice issues who want to pursue a career in social welfare law. The Scheme has been established by The Legal Education Foundation, and is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Unbound Philanthropy, City Bridge Trust and a number of law firms. Its aim is that the Fellowship Scheme will come to be seen as a route to a career in this important area of law, with Fellows going on to become leaders in their field and important advocates for access to justice and the rule of law.


Mark first became interested in practising law whilst undertaking an internship in Jamaica where he assisted prisoners on death row at the now ‘Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights’. The internship formed part of his university studies as a volunteer with the University of Westminster’s ‘Death Penalty Project at the Centre for Capital Punishment Studies’. In Jamaica, Mark experienced first-hand the poverty, destitution and suffering of death row prisoners who could not afford legal representation. Mark graduated in 1995, before then obtaining a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice in 1997. He completed his Legal Practice Course (LPC) in 2002.


After he completed his legal studies, Mark worked within social welfare law for over 11 years at Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), first as an adviser at Bristol CAB and then as a legal aid money advice caseworker and additionally a housing caseworker at various CABs in the Essex area. Part of Mark’s role at the CAB also included training and mentoring new advisers in housing and debt casework.


Mark also volunteered with a wide variety of local community groups delivering social welfare advice, including an Eastern European Women’s support group assisting women experiencing hate crime, marginalisation and isolation locally; the Offender Support Initiative, providing prisoners at HMP Chelmsford, HMP Bullwood Hall and HMP Holloway with advice on their rights to housing following release from prison; and the Debt Health initiative assisting patients in secure mental health units with money management.


Mark applied for the JFF because he wanted to be a social welfare lawyer. He wanted to be a lawyer who could help the most vulnerable in society - those who are destitute. The JFF will allow Mark to qualify as a solicitor while also undertaking a project to develop and implement a project that will advance access to justice.  Mark has chosen to set up a project which will give advice and assistance to vulnerable women. Part of the project would be to assist those with precarious and insecure immigration status because of their nationality or those who have been trafficked.  For example, there has been an increase in the number of East London based Eastern European women who require good quality employment and discrimination, housing, immigration and welfare benefits advice but cannot access mainstream services. As part of the project, Mark hopes to recruit volunteers whom he can train to assist. He will run regular drop-in advice sessions and also undertake any related substantive casework.


Mark began his training contract/fellowship in January. Mark’s first seat is with the immigration department where he is working on non-controlled immigration, asylum and human rights cases under the supervision of HCLC immigration solicitor Sonia Lenegan.


Commenting on his appointment as a HCLC Justice First Fellow, Mark McDonald-Loncke said: “I am extremely happy to join HCLC as its new JFF because the fellowship will enable me to fully qualify as a solicitor and help the most vulnerable members of our society. I have always wanted to be a social welfare lawyer and so I am very grateful to the Legal Education Foundation for giving me this fantastic opportunity at a time when qualifying as a solicitor – especially in social welfare law -  is becoming harder.”


HCLC Manager Sean Canning said: "I am very pleased to welcome Mark to the Centre as our first Justice First Fellow. Mark is an exceptional young man who wants to make a difference as a social welfare lawyer. HCLC is delighted that the Legal Education Foundation has given us the opportunity to assist Mark to qualify. The Justice First Fellowship is an excellent scheme that will ensure that a new generation of social welfare lawyers are trained, nurtured and supported to become the future leaders of Law Centres likes ours”.