We are thrilled to announce that public law solicitor Raja Rajeswaran Uruthiravinayagan has won the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year – Public Law award at this year’s Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards (LALY). The LALY awards are organised by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group and recognise the work carried out by legal aid lawyers throughout the year.
Raja left Sri Lanka aged 13 due to the war, leaving his family behind and is now dedicated to securing access to justice to some of the most vulnerable individuals in society, particularly those who are victims of torture, abuse, and trafficking. Since joining Duncan Lewis he has been at the coalface of legal aid asylum and human rights protection work. His background incentivises his brilliance and fearlessness in promoting the rights and interests of vulnerable members of our communities.
He has been the instructing solicitor in multiple recent cases concerning access to justice for asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants. This work includes his notable challenge to the Home Office immigration removal window policy, R (on the application of FB and another) v SSHD (removal window policy)  UKUT 428 (IAC) described as ‘one of the most important cases in a generation in the sphere of immigration and asylum affecting all irregular migrants’.
In the last year Raja has taken on the whole gamut of public law cases in the field of immigration, asylum, and human rights. He has vigorously pursued and protected the rights of foreign national asylum seekers subject to detention and then removal under what was the Dublin Convention and then the Dublin Regulation, seeking to forensically define the powers the Home Office enjoys under European Union law. Of note is his challenge Omar & Others v SSHD  EWCA Civ 207 which is currently awaiting a decision on permission to appeal from the Supreme Court and concerns the legal legitimacy of immigration detention regulations. Thousands of individuals detained under the Regulations stand to benefit from this appeal.
On winning his award, Raja commented;
It was an honour to be shortlisted and an even greater honour to have won this award. This is also an endorsement of the incredible work that we do as a team, as a department and as a firm at the legal aid coalface, where the work is the hardest.
We mustn’t forget that we live in extraordinary times. There is a real crisis that has been brewing in our justice system that threatens to boil over if it is not addressed now. Restrictions on the provision of legal aid have created legal aid deserts and led to the abrogation of access to justice. The rule of law itself is at risk. If not for the work of all the brilliant legal aid lawyers delivering access to justice at the cliff edge of disadvantage, we would have had an even bigger crisis on our hands. It is essential work that fosters societal cohesion and equality whilst defending fundamental rights and freedoms. That is why it was humbling, not to mention a real privilege and an honour, to be part of this year’s celebration of legal aid work.
It was an overall highly successful evening for the Duncan Lewis public law department, with public law trainee solicitor Maria Petrova-Collins joining Raja at the ceremony as a finalist for the Legal Aid Newcomer Award. The recognition for her public law and immigration work, particularly her expertise in handling cases involving modern slavery and immigration detention is highly deserved.
The increasingly hostile environment to immigration is unjust and cuts to legal aid have had a devastating effect on access to justice. Raja’s work is a testament to his steadfast commitment to improve this system and is thoroughly deserving of the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year – Public Law award. Raja’s win marks continued success for Duncan Lewis at the LALY awards following fellow public law solicitor Lewis Kett who won the Legal Aid Newcomer award at last year’s presentation.
Huge congratulations go to Raja on his deserved achievement and Maria on her shortlisting, and we applaud all of the other winners and nominees at the 2019 LALY awards.
Duncan Lewis Public Law Solicitors
The Duncan Lewis Public Law department continues to be recommended by Legal 500 with the 2019 edition reporting its 'strong presence in this area of the law, making a particularly dominant contribution in immigration, asylum and prison law.'
The Public law team has experience in all aspects of judicial review claimant work, including obtaining emergency orders and other interim relief to prevent breaches of human rights, following up judicial reviews with actions for damages in both the County and High Court and successfully pursuing judicial review matters to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. A particular focus is the team’s work handling cases of the deprivation of British citizenship and deportation threats, with a niche specialism in challenging the treatment of immigration detainees and other marginalised communities.
To contact a member of the public law team, call 033 3772 0409.