High Court criticise legal aid residency test

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The High Court has criticised the government’s plans to exclude anyone from accessing civil legal aid where they have not acquired  twelve months’ lawful residence in the UK.

The goverment had planned to remove the right of immigrants to obtain public funding if they could not prove that they had twelve months’ lawful residence in the UK, despite the merit of their claim or the potential hardship which they might suffer without legal aid.

The test case, challenging the legality of the test, was brought on behalf of the legal charity, Public Law Project and was heard by a panel of three judges in the High Court. The panel unanimously ruled that the Lord Chancellor had exceeded his statutory powers by introducing the test under secondary legislation. Furthermore, they ruled that the residency test would discriminate against foreigners without justification.   

Lord Justice Moses said “It is and was beyond question that the introduction of such a test was discriminatory…..Indeed, that is its declared purpose….”.