Press Release

Launch of Free Law Clinic for People Living with HIV – World AIDS Day

The launch of a new free law clinic for people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV) was announced today.  A collaborative venture between The River House Trust, a charity providing services for PLHIV based in Hammersmith, the solicitors’ firm H.C.L. Hanne & Co, and the School of Law at Birkbeck College, University of London, the River House Law Clinic will provide vitally needed legal advice for PLHIV, many of whom still experience unlawful discrimination in work, housing, and other areas.

The service will be provided at the River House Trust premises in Hammersmith.  River House has played an important role in providing support for PLHIV since its inception in the mid 1980s. It opened in its present form in February 1988 as a result of a unique co-operation between St. Paul’s Church and the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham’s Social Services Department, achieving charity status in 1996. River House functions as a welcoming and supportive community resource centre which provides nutritional, practical, therapeutic and medical services for men, women and children living with HIV. An important aspect of the ethos of River House is the promotion of partnership working to ensure that a wide range of integrated resources are offered to PLHIV.

Kathryn Dombrowicz, Director of The River House Trust, said that this new partnership was an exciting and important development, stating “People living with HIV are subjected to a range of medical, psychological and social challenges on a daily basis. The provision of the free law clinic will provide a valuable resource, not only to our clients but also to PLHIV across London who will be able to access the service”.

Actress Pauline Collins, OBE, who is a Patron of The River House Trust, was delighted to support this new development. “I have worked with River House for several years and I am proud to be associated with a charity which so clearly supports people who are often marginalised in many areas of life. The River House Law Clinic will offer a very important service to people who are often disadvantaged and in need of quality legal advice”.

Legal advice at the Clinic will be provided free of charge by H.C.L. Hanne & Co.  The firm, established in 1898, has provided legal services in the areas of family, housing, criminal, probate and employment law for over one hundred years. The partners and solicitors are experienced and practical legal practitioners and are proud to be working in partnership with Birkbeck and The River House Trust to set up the River House Law Clinic. Involved in setting up and then providing the professional advisers to staff the Clinic, H.C.L. Hanne & Co’s David Taylor explained that the venture emphasizes its commitment to providing legal services in an innovative way, ensuring those most in need of legal advice are able to access a practical yet quality, professional service.

One of the most exciting aspects of the River House Free Law Clinic is the involvement of law students from Birkbeck College.  Their role will be to conduct initial fact-finding from clients, to support the solicitors, and to direct them to the appropriate adviser.  The Law School was inundated with requests from students wishing to be involved, says Dr Matthew Weait, Assistant Dean in the School and member of recently established Advisory Group for the Global Commission on HIV and Law.  “Birkbeck has long been dedicated to improving the lives of Londoners”, said Dr Weait.  “The River House Law Clinic will provide valuable skills training and the participation of the School of Law demonstrates its particular commitment to the cause of social justice and to supporting those who need, and will benefit from, quality legal advice.”

Press and other enquiries should be directed to: Kathryn Dom