Divisional Court damning rule denouncing government’s proposal for residence test for legal aid


Today’s specially convened three-judge Divisional Court have passed a damning ruling in PLP v Secretary of State for Justice denouncing the government’s proposal to introduce a residence test for legal aid, where the onus for applicants is to prove 12 months continuous residency in the United Kingdom. The Court found the proposal unlawful and overwhelmingly discriminatory.

In response today’s judgment, Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch (UK) said:

“It is an important principle of British Law that all individuals have equal access to justice. We fully support the reasoning of Moses LJ when he said:

“a residence test cannot be justified in relation to the enforcement of domestic law or the protection afforded by domestic law, which is applicable to all equally, provided they are within its jurisdiction.”

The decision is significant in that it ensures that the UK Government, whether acting domestically or abroad and in relation to UK residence or not, can be held to account for unlawful activity. Should the residency test have been introduced, it would have been almost impossible to have held the UK Government to account for the mistreatment and ultimately the death of Baha Mousa at the hands of British forces in Iraq in 2003. Similarly, there would be a black hole in relation to the accountability for alleged UK Government complicity in unlawful activities abroad in relation to non UK residents.

As the House of Lords gets ready to decide on cuts to legal aid next week, Rights Watch (UK) reiterate our position and urge the peers to ensure full protection to the core democratic principle in British society of equality before the law and equal access to justice.


For more information on this release contact Yasmine Ahmed (Director) on (+44) 0208 004 0941 or email yahmed@rwuk.org

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