For Immediate Release

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Donald Campbell: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

Government’s Legal Aid Plans “Unlawful” and “Discriminatory,” Rule Judges

LONDON - British judges today ruled that a proposed cut to legal aid known as the ‘residence test’ is “unlawful” and “discriminatory.” The measure, which was pushed through the Commons without a debate last Wednesday (9 July), would block anyone not resident in the UK from receiving legal aid. This would mean that people who had been wronged by the UK Government – such as victims of rendition and torture – could be shut out of court, unless they are very wealthy.

The policy has come in for criticism from two Parliamentary Select Committees: the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) warned last month that “the residence test will inevitably lead to breaches by the United Kingdom of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,” while the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (JCSI) has said of the case put forward by the Government that it “does not find these arguments persuasive.”

Additionally, an internal Ministry of Justice document has revealed that no savings have been identified as a result of the policy, and it is likely to cause "an increase in costs" to the Legal Aid Agency.

Today’s ruling came in response to a Judicial Review brought by the Public Law Project, a legal charity.

Commenting, Cori Crider, Strategic Director at Reprieve said: “This is welcome news. The ‘residence test’ would seriously damage the principle that no-one, not even the Government, is above the law. Deserving cases – such as victims of ‘rendition’ operations in which the UK was complicit – would be denied their day in court. The Government must think again.”

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Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

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