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Supreme Court confirms that Lord Chancellor has no power to remove legal aid rights from specified groups

Unanimous judgment rejects residence test

A unanimous Supreme Court, led by its president, Lord Neuberger, has issued its full judgment on the 'residence test' for legal aid proposed by the former Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling. 

In R (on the application of The Public Law Project) v Lord Chancellor [2016] UKSC 39 it held that exclusion of a specific group of people from the right to receive legal aid on the ground of personal circumstances or characteristics which have nothing to do with the seriousness of the case or individual need is unlawful because Parliament never contemplated rights to legal aid being removed in that way.

Bindmans LLP, who acted for the Public Law Project, the appellants, state that the judgment formalises the unprecedented step taken by the Supreme Court on 18 April this year, when it allowed an appeal at the end of the first day of a two-day hearing. The Supreme Court had before it dozens of witness statements about the anticipated impact of the test, including from Jean Charles de Menezes' family lawyers, a solicitor assisting a woman with learning disabilities who had been imprisoned in a kennel by her husband's family and another acting for migrant children left destitute as a result of local authority disputes over responsibility. None of their clients would have passed the residence test, nor would British nationals abroad, or those in the UK who could not have demonstrated they qualified, such as homeless people or women fleeing domestic violence.

For the judgment, please click here. For the official summary of the judgment, please click here.