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Challenging the Legal Aid Residence Test

15 July 2014

Success in the Divisional Court

The Divisional Court has today ruled that the residence test applied to accessing legal aid is 'unauthorised, discriminatory and impossible to justify'.

The case was brought by the Public Law Project (represented by Bindmans LLP, with intervention from the Children's Commissioner) and is yet another blow to the much criticised Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.  The Act, known as LASPO has, in the name of 'austerity', introduced core changes to the way legal aid is accessed. However as Lord Justice Moses said in the judgment, "the possibility of saving expenses is not an aim which can be legitimately relied upon to justify discrimination”.

The AIRE centre was among a number of NGOs who have voiced objections to an Act which has had a disproportionate impact on migrant families, victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, and people on low income, and/or homeless or destitute people. In an effort to try to stop this residence test from affecting these marginalised groups, we have contributed to a joint policy paper, alongside 32 other NGOs and legal institutions, which sets out 10 Reasons to vote against the Legal Aid Residence Test. We hope that this paper, and today’s court judgment attesting that as Lord Chacellor, Grayling exceeded his statutory powers when devising the residence test, will act as a decisive call for members to reject the residence test completely via a “fatal motion” when the issue is debated in the House of Lords on the 21st July.

You can read the full judgment here.

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