Legal aid rules seem unfair

UK’s Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling is facing critics after his issued guidance regarding allocation of legal aids seems unjust as perceived by the High Court.

According to a judge, six cases of claim for legal aids were denied in accordance to the Lord Chancellor’s issued guidance of granting legal aids to immigrant cases. The six immigrant cases involved includes European nationals appealing against departure following criminal convictions, an alleged victim of trafficking from Nigeria, and other cases involving the right to enter and remain in the UK. The judge also said that at least some of the mentioned cases should have been granted with the proper court judgment.

Mr. Justice Collins, a judge in London, said that anyone within the premises of UK is under its law and is granted the necessary protection.

“Thus there must be a fair and effective hearing available and the guidance, as the facts of some of the cases I have dealt with show, produces unfairness”.

The Lord Chancellor’s issued act seems ironic to what the government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) stands for. The issued act tends to cut the legal aid allocated budget by £350 million a year by 2015. It also greatly affected the provision and scope of legal aid, including for immigration cases, and were forced to be implement last April 2013.

Several campaign groups also cried with disappointment regarding the guidance, which they call as a “false economy”. According to them, the cut in the legal aid boundaries will greatly impact those who need it the most, and making enforcement of legal right much harder for individuals, especially to immigrants.

Failure to recognize Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights is one of the major flaws of the Lord Chancellor’s guidance, according to the judge. The mentioned six cases all have Article 8 claim, which tackles taking into account the rights of family members, especially children. In Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, welfare of children in the United Kingdom are taken into account in an immigration decision.

Immigrants, being the most impacted group, seeking for help and not at all fluent with English will be targeted by opportunistic individuals, the judge also mentioned. The lack of access to credited advisers poses another threat in the security of immigrants.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said that allocation of legal aid should be carefully decided as resources are limited and the people’s taxes should be used and spent wisely. The spokesman also mentioned that the removal of provision of legal aid for immigrant cases, except asylum cases, was replaced by a reasonable funding scheme to address the issue. This is to ensure that international obligations are still met by the government.

Expressing disappointment, the judge gave permission to lawyers of legal aid counseling to appeal to the Lord Chancellor’s issued guidance and a 28-day period to raise appeals with regards to the six immigrant cases.