I grew up hearing stories about my grandfather, a man who used his Harvard law degree to defend the interests of those less fortunate than himself. William Westling represented members of the Black Panthers, marched to Washington D.C for Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, and gave anonymously to sports clubs in underprivileged neighborhoods. I never met my grandfather, but his service to the public is a legacy that I am inextricably drawn to.

It is for this reason that my work with the North Kensington Law Centre (NKLC) has felt the most fulfilling in my life. I began as a volunteer receptionist in 2018 while studying a graduate diploma in law. The opportunity to engage with people on their legal queries and build a familiarity with the law centre’s services were invaluable experiences. After a year of part-time volunteering I transitioned to taking on casework relating to Crime, Welfare Benefits, and Immigration.

My proudest moment came when I worked alongside senior caseworker Adrian Cooper in advocating for our client in a First-tier Social Security Tribunal. Our client had been given a benefits overpayment decision. I was able to trace transactions in the clients bank statements. We submitted our new evidence that the benefits overpayment was mistakenly calculated, as the client did not in fact have the beneficial interest in the money that was regularly leaving her account. She had established an informal trust with her sons.

I was given the incredible opportunity to present my findings to the judge and advocate for our client. We won the case and our client was subsequently awarded backdated benefits.

My latest work with NKLC has been focused on the Legal Observer initiative for Notting Hill Carnival. The impetus behind implementing the first legal observer project for Carnival came when we heard stories of carnival-goers receiving abusive treatment from police. Carnival is a culturally significant celebration of the British West Indian community. The history of Carnival began in 1959 as a defiant expression of that culture in response to racist attacks on members of the Caribbean community. It is of paramount importance that the use of power by the police is monitored. The aim of the observation was to provide carnival-goers with support, record stop-and-searches and arrests, and provide information of our services to ensure legal recourse was available.

I wrote a report on our findings and methods from Carnival 2019. Matthew Phillip, the Director of Carnival, has used this report in his negotiations with the Metropolitan Police.

Truman is an American and British dual citizen. He has graduated from Edinburgh University, studied human rights law at LSE and Oxford University, and has achieved a 2:1 on his LPC at City University. He is the founder of the podcast ‘The Legal Observer’ focusing on topical legal issues.