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Proposed legal aid residence test unlawful and discriminatory

The Queen (on the application of the Public Law Project) v The Secretary of State for Justice (2014) EWHC 2365 (Admin)

On 15th July, the High Court of England and Wales delivered its scathing judgment on the Justice Secretary’s controversial plans to introduce a ‘residence test’ for civil legal aid eligibility.  The main thrust of the plans is to prevent those who could not prove one year’s lawful residence in the UK from accessing the legal aid scheme even if they had the most meritorious of cases.

The Court unanimously held that the Justice Secretary did not have the legal power to introduce the test by means of secondary legislation.  The Court also declared that the test would amount to unlawful discrimination as it would advantage one claimant over another merely on the grounds of their country of lawful residence. 

It is notable that the Ministry of Justice has indicated its intention to appeal.

The legal charity, Public Law Project (PLP), who took the judicial review said:

‘We are heartened by this judgment, which embodies and articulates the finest traditions of our justice system and provides a timely illustration of the importance of judicial review as a check on unlawful executive action.’

Further commentary from PLP is available here.  Read comprehensive commentary from The Justice Gap here.

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Legal Aid