Pro Bono Week profile: Christopher McCarthy

05 November 2021

Please tell us about the pro bono work you did

During the last year or so, I have been involved in a few different pro bono cases.

I was led in a Welsh landlord licensing case referred to us by law firm Hugh James. It was the first to bring the provisions of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 before the higher courts.

The Court of Appeal handed down its judgment on it back in July 2020. It  found that a section 8, Housing Act 1988 notice served by a landlord is a “notice to terminate a tenancy”. And if that notice is served by a landlord who is unlicensed in Wales, it is invalid.

The decision affects the private rental sector in Wales as it means if the landlord fails to follow the rules, possession of a property may be denied even if that landlord is relying on “fault-based” grounds for possession.

In November, I was nominated for 2020 Young Pro Bono Barrister of the Year award at the Advocate Bar Pro Bono Awards for my work on the case.

More recently through Advocate, I advised a vulnerable adult on a complicated property matter. It involved considering inaccuracies in a warrant issued for access to her home under environmental protection legislation and disrepair. Unfortunately, the claim was years out-of-time, so my client was unable to take the matter forward. But for the first time, she was able to receive comprehensive advice and answers to her questions.

Currently, I have a case about the mis-selling of a mortgage and my clients’ subsequent loss of their home.

When I can, I volunteer for the CLIPS (litigant in person support) programme with the Chancery Bar.

What impact did the pro bono work have on the people and communities you worked with?

I have been able to give legal advice to people who would otherwise have found it very difficult, if not impossible, to access lawyers if they had to pay privately.

Someone who has lost their home or faces losing their home, is dealing with one of the biggest stresses in life. Without the support of a lawyer to help navigate the legal system, that pressure is hugely exacerbated.

I hope my pro bono advice and representation go some way to easing their struggles at an immensely anxious time in their lives.

Did your pro bono work have an impact on your professional career? If so, in what ways?

Understandably, litigants in person often struggle to express their legal case clearly, succinctly and persuasively. Having non-legally qualified individuals as pro bono clients has sharpened my professional ability to distil the key parts of a case quickly and sort the good legal points from the bad.

Any final comments

Not that I do pro bono for the praise, but the thanks are much appreciated. A solicitor who worked on the Welsh landlord licensing case described it as “put together with the utmost care and attention, leaving no stone unturned.” That sort of comment gives me a sense of satisfaction.