High Court rules legal aid “residence test” unlawful.

A 3-judge Divisional Court has today ruled the Government’s proposed legal aid residence test unlawful in a case brought by the Public Law Project. In a unanimous judgement, the Court held that the proposed test was ultra vires the enabling Act, because it was inconsistent with its object and purpose, which was to retain legal aid for cases of greatest need. A test of residence is unconnected with need and would deny legal aid in meritorious cases of highest priority need to those who by definition are unable to pay for advice and representation. The Court also held that the test was unjustifiably discriminatory, restating the important principle of equality before the law.

 

Alison Pickup, of Doughty Street Chambers, acted for the Public Law Project, instructed by John Halford at Bindmans LLP, as part of a team led by Michael Fordham QC. Paul Bowen QC and Catherine Meredith, also of Doughty Street, acted for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner in a written intervention in support of PLP’s case.  Stephen Cragg QC, of Doughty Street, is chair of the Public Law Project.

 

Further Information

More information available in the Public Law Project press release and Bindmans LLP press release.

 

The  judgment is available here and the summary is available here

 

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