Supreme Court Strikes Down Government's Legal Aid Residence Test - RightsInfo

Supreme Court Strikes Down Government’s Legal Aid Residence Test

In a dramatic development, after only one day of the two-day hearing, the Supreme Court has said that the residence test for legal aid is unlawful because it goes further than the powers granted to the Secretary of State by Parliament. The full Supreme Court statement is here:

The issues in this appeal (see Case details ) were whether the proposed civil legal aid residence test in the draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Amendment of Schedule 1) Order 2014 is:

  1. ultra vires the enabling statute and
  2. unjustifiably discriminatory and so in breach of common law and the Human Rights Act 1998.

At the end of today’s hearing the Supreme Court announced that it was allowing the appeal on ground (1) and full written reasons for the decision will follow in due course.

Following its decision on ground (1) The Supreme Court asked the parties whether they wished to address the Court on the second issue, ground (2). The case has been adjourned while this is considered. The case may therefore not continue tomorrow.

Legal aid is financial assistance provided by the state in limited circumstances to help people defend their legal rights in court. The residence test restricts legal aid to people who are “lawfully resident” in the UK and have been for the past 12 months. The Public Law Project (PLP), which is bringing the case, says that this is outside of the government’s powers and also discriminatory under human rights laws.

The Court has said the PLP are right on their first point, and it may not hear the human rights arguments at all.

Here is some background:

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Adam Wagner

Founder and Chair
Adam is the founder and Chair of RightsInfo. In his day job, he is a barrister specialising in human rights law and is well known for his human rights communications work on social and mainstream media. In 2010 he set up the hugely successful UK Human Rights Blog. To email Adam, drop him a line. View all posts by Adam Wagner.
Supreme Court Strikes Down Government’s Legal Aid Residence Test
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