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Legal Aid Residency Test dismissed by Supreme Court

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27 April 2016

Legal Aid Residency Test dismissed by Supreme Court

Following a unanimous Supreme Court ruling the attempt made by the Government to introduce a residence test for anyone claiming legal aid have been dismissed.

The government wanted to introduce a residence test for anyone claiming legal aid. The proposed test involved restricting civil legal aid, except in certain circumstances, to people who have lived in the UK, Crown dependencies or British overseas territories continuously for a period of 12 months or more at the time of applying.

Human rights campaigners had condemned the plans saying they would mean newly arrived refugees and their children would not be able to access vital legal support for family matters, health and housing.  The Law Society had supported the Public Law Project, who brought the original challenge against the government’s proposition as it was their view that the ‘legal aid residence test’ was unlawful as it was discriminatory.  It was also further argued that the introduction of a residence test was outside the powers granted by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

The Supreme Court agreed with this later point, ruling that the former Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, acted beyond his powers when he amended the Legal Aid Act using secondary legislation to introduce a controversial “residence test” in 2012.

For further information please see the Independents article on the ruling.

If you require any advice regarding Legal Aid issues do not hesitate to contact us.

Sophie Metcalfe