Judges rule on legal aid guidance

Published: Monday 15th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Judges rule today on the legality of Government guidance in relation to granting legal aid for immigration cases.

Earlier this year the High Court declared that guidance issued by Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling was “unlawful and too restrictive”.

Quashing refusals of legal aid in six cases, a judge in London said the guidance ”sets too high a threshold” and ”produces unfairness” by denying publicly-funded legal advice to applicants in ”exceptional cases”.

The Government appealed and a decision on that challenge is being announced by Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justice Sullivan at the Court of Appeal.

Giving his ruling in June, Mr Justice Collins said it was ”a fundamental principle that anyone in the UK is subject to its laws and is entitled to their protection”.

He said: ”Thus there must be a fair and effective hearing available and the guidance, as the facts of some of the cases I have dealt with show, produces unfairness”.

The judge quashed refusals by the director of legal aid casework, relying on the Lord Chancellor’s guidance, to grant legal aid to six claimants.

All the cases concern the availability of legal aid in immigration cases under section 10 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), which deals with exceptional funding applications.

Mr Justice Collins said the cases involved EU nationals appealing against decisions that they should be deported following criminal convictions, an alleged victim of trafficking from Nigeria, and other cases involving the right to enter and remain in the UK.

He indicated that in some of the six cases legal aid should have been granted, but said all of them must be reconsidered in the light of the ruling.

He said: ”I have decided that the guidance in certain respects is indeed unlawful in that it is too restrictive and in other respects not in accordance with the law.”

The Government’s flagship LASPO legislation was introduced to reform the legal aid system in order to cut the legal aid bill by £350 million a year by 2015.

The Act made wide-ranging changes to the provision and scope of legal aid, including for immigration cases, and most of the reforms came into force on April 1 2013.

Published: Monday 15th December 2014 by The News Editor

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