Coram Children’s Legal Centre welcomes judgement against proposed legal aid residence test

  • 17 July 2014

Three judges made a unanimous decision that the legal aid residence test which was proposed by the Government is against the law.

The residence test would have denied legal aid to claimants who were not classed as being ‘lawfully resident’ in the UK for 12 months.

Many vulnerable children and young people who need legal support will fall foul of the test. For example, CCLC represented a 12-year-old child abandoned at the airport and taken to a children’s home. She stayed in the home for some months, but was not provided with any education. If the residence test had been in force, CCLC would not have been able to challenge the authorities’ unlawful failure to provide her with education.

CCLC, which provides free legal advice and representation to children and their families, provided a witness statement in support of the claim, which demonstrated the impact that the proposed test would have on children and young people.

Noel Arnold, director of legal practice at Coram Children’s Legal Centre, said:

‘We are really pleased about this judgment, which reiterates the principle in our justice system that all are equal before the law. We and others have consistently pointed out the dangers the proposed test posed to children’s access to justice and the UK’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We now join others in calling on the Government to abandon this unlawful and discriminatory test.’

The case was brought by the Public Law Project. John Halford, Joint Head of the Public Law and Human Rights Team at Bindmans LLP, who were instructed by the Public Law Project, said:

‘We put (CCLC’s) evidence front and centre in the case and much was said about it in oral submissions. As much as anything, the judgment is an endorsement of what Coram Children’s Legal Centre stands for.’

CCLC and many other children’s organisations have argued, since the test was proposed over a year ago, that it ran counter to children’s rights and would prevent vulnerable children and young people from accessing the vital support they need to address legal problems when their rights are violated.

Following serious concerns expressed by important parliamentary committees, the High Court has now said that the proposed test is discriminatory and unjustifiable.

Useful links

Read the full judgmentCCLC’s briefings on the residence test  Watch CCLC’s oral evidence to the Joint Committee on Human RightsImpact of the residence test in CCLC’s report, Growing Up In A Hostile Environment