Grayling's 'discriminatory' legal aid test grinds to a halt

Stump up the cash: Grayling's changes would have restricted legal aid
Stump up the cash: Grayling's changes would have restricted legal aid
Ian Dunt By

Thousands of legal documents and residency forms have been withdrawn at the last minute, after Chris Grayling's plans to restrict legal aid to long-term British residents were blocked by the high court.

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) withdrew training materials, draft casework guidance, contract amendment notices and vendor specifications relating to the residence test. Forms which featured the residence test have also been re-issued with the references withdrawn.

A House of Lords debate tabled by Labour justice spokesman Jeremy Beecham has also been withdrawn, as Grayling's project, which was intended to bring Ukip supporters back to the Tory party fold, ground to a halt.

But despite the cost of the withdrawal and tens of thousands of pounds in potential legal costs, the Ministry of Justice has decided to appeal the ruling.


"It was evitable the government could not proceed with their hated and illegal residence test after the judgement from the high court," shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter said.

"Rather than wasting more public on the appeal, they should accept the court's judgement that this was discriminatory. Sooner or later David Cameron must learn that you can't legislate by sound bite or prejudice."

In a particularly damning judgement, three judges at the high court found Grayling had overstepped his legal powers by attempting to restrict legal aid to those who had been in the UK over a year.

They also found that the move would effectively end equality under the law and leave some of the most vulnerable people in society without legal representation.

Human rights groups warned that trafficked people, domestic abuse survivors and vulnerable children would be affected by the move.

In a piece for Poltics.co.uk, Bill Waddington, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA), said the ruling was equivalent to Brazil's defeat at the hands of Germany during the World Cup.

"With each and every growing controversy, we have seen that the government's changes to the criminal justice system have been rooted in the panacea of cutting costs, with little regard to preserving the integrity and the fundamental principles of equality before the law and access to justice that sit at the heart of our legal system," he said.

"Make no bones about it. This case is Chris Grayling's Germany versus Brazil moment – he fought hard and lost decisively. Though Brazil actually managed to score once whereas he couldn’t even manage that.

"No justice secretary in recent times has received such a kicking from three such distinguished judges."

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