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Supreme Court to determine legality of legal aid residence test

Judgment to be delivered on 13th July

The Supreme Court will deliver judgment on Wednesday, 13 July in R (on the application of The Public Law Project) (Appellant) v Lord Chancellor. The Court will determine 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: (i) ultra vires the enabling statute and (ii) unjustifiably discriminatory and so in breach of common law and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Following the entry into force of the civil legal aid reforms made by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, the Ministry of Justice decided to introduce a residence test for civil legal aid via secondary legislation. If approved by Parliament, this would restrict civil legal aid to persons who are lawfully resident in the UK, Crown Dependencies or British Overseas Territories at the time of the application for civil legal aid, and have resided lawfully for a continuous period of at least 12 months (with certain exceptions). The Divisional Court held that introduction of the residence test was ultra vires and unjustifiably discriminatory. The Court of Appeal overturned that decision.

The Office of the Children's Commissioner and The Law Society have intervened in the Supreme Court proceedings.

The Court of Appeal judgment is here.