Dates set for residence test Supreme Court hearing
Later this month, the Supreme Court will hear the appeal brought by the Public Law Project (PLP) on its challenge to the government’s plans to introduce a residence test for legal aid.
The case has been expedited by the Supreme Court and will be heard by a panel of seven justices on 18 and 19 April 2016. PLP is represented by the firm Bindmans, which has taken on the case on a no win, no fee basis.
PLP had succeeded in the Divisional Court in 2014 ( EWHC 2365 (Admin)), but the government successfully overturned this decision in the Court of Appeal ( EWCA Civ 1193), which ruled that, in establishing the test, the lord chancellor had not exceeded his powers and that any discrimination caused by the test could be justified. PLP fears that if the test is imposed, many people will be unjustly excluded from claiming legal aid.
Bindmans partner John Halford described the two courts as having reached ‘diametrically opposed decisions’ on legal issues in the case and also said they ‘took very different approaches to the evidence they were presented with’. He argued that the case is of great public importance as, if the test was to be implemented, it would deny legal aid ‘for the sole reason that those seeking it are not what the minister responsible described as “our people” because they live abroad or have come here recently’. Halford believes that to lose the case ‘would be a mortal blow to equality before the law’.