Supreme Court says 'No' to the residence test

Published: April 19 2016

Supreme Court says 'No' to the residence test

Yesterday a seven-Justice Supreme Court unanimously allowed the Public Law Project’s challenge to the Government’s proposed residence test for civil legal aid, reversing the judgment of the Court of Appeal. The case was listed for two days, but at the end of the first day the Court announced that it would allow the appeal, finding that the Lord Chancellor did not have the power to introduce the proposed test. The Supreme Court has said that it will publish written reasons for its judgment in due course.

The Public Law Project’s Director, Jo Hickman, said today:

"We are delighted with this outcome, which so fundamentally vindicates PLP's long-stated position as to the lawfulness of the proposed residence test. Its impact on access to justice would have been catastrophic. Our thanks to all who offered PLP their support in these proceedings, but particularly to our legal team who worked tirelessly to bring a case founded in the very proudest principles of British justice.

Our legal team are John Halford of Bindmans LLP, Mike Fordham, Ben Jaffey, Naina Patel of Blackstone Chambers, and Alison Pickup of Doughty Street Chambers. John Halford said yesterday:

"The British legal system is rooted in two fundamental principles - that all equally enjoy the protection of ours laws and all are accountable to our Courts. The Lord Chancellor takes an oath of office to honour these principles, but planned to undermine them by withholding legal aid from those who failed his residence test, leaving them powerless to enforce legal rights in the most compelling cases. Yet today, after minutes of deliberation, seven Justices of our highest court held him accountable, ruling he was acting in a legal vacuum and without Parliamentary authority. They were right to do so - rationing British justice using a residence test is repugnant to British law."

For enquiries please contact Ade Lukes on 020 7843 1266 or a.lukes@publiclawproject.org.uk

Notes to editors:

  1. The Public Law Project (PLP) is an independent, national legal charity which aims to improve access to justice for those whose access is restricted by poverty, discrimination or other similar barriers. The residence test case was brought in furtherance of PLP’s charitable objectives. PLP’s website is at http://www.publiclawproject.org.uk/
  2. You can find the Divisional Court judgement here and the Court of Appeal judgment here.

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