The UK government has come under fire again over legal aid as the Court of Appeal (CoA) slammed how guidance for funding legal aid in immigration cases was unlawful.
The Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justice Sullivan ruled yesterday (15 December) that the guidelines around legal aid funding in exceptional circumstances do not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.
‘The guidance wrongly states that there is nothing in the current case law that would put the UK under a legal obligation to provide legal aid in immigration proceedings in order to meet its procedural obligations under article 8,’ said the judgement.
The director of legal aid casework refused six applications for exceptional case funding, which were introduced under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act in April 2013. The six claimants were Teresa Gudanaviciene, IS (by his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor), Cleon Reis, B, Jacqueline Elizabeth Edgehill and LS. The British Red Cross Society acted as intervener advised by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer which instructed Guy Goodwin-Gill and Samantha Knights.
The defendants were the Director of Legal Aid Casework and the Lord Chancellor with the Tresury Solictor instructing Martin Chamberlain QC, Sarah Love and Malcolm Birdling.
Other firms picking up work include Turpin Miller which instructed Richard Drabble QC, Ranjiv Khubber and Joseph Markus to represent Gudanaviciene; and Public Law Project instructed Phillippa Kaufmann QC and Mr Chris Buttler to represent IS. Duncan Lewis & Co represented Reis instructing Richard Drabble QC, Tim Buley and Alistair Mills; Islington Law Centre acted for B, which instructed Paul Bowen QC and Alison Pickup; Duncan Lewis & Co acted for Edgehill alongside Ashley Underwood QC and Adam Tear; ATLEU represented LS alongside Paul Bowen QC and Catherine Meredith.
Earlier this month, a National Audit Office report into the legal aid reforms found that the ‘significant and quick’ cuts had not been put under proper consideration.