Setting aside for a moment the fact that Legal Aid is hardly accessible these days, to anyone, it’s been a good day in court for the support service, as judges overturned a government plan to restrict access to it further by imposing a residency test on people in need of legal support.
The residency test would have prevented people from accessing legal aid if they had not lived in the UK continuously for 12 months and could have affected newly arrived migrants and their children. The test, backed by Justice Secretary Michael Gove, was summarily thrown out in a unanimous Supreme Court ruling and unusually, the ruling itself was delivered only minutes after recess yesterday.
The Supreme Court took the view that the government would be acting ‘ultra vires’, or beyond its own powers if it decided to proceed with the residence test. However, the government could push ahead and try to enforce the policy by presenting a Bill to parliament with the measures, in full.
So, whilst the battle to save what’s left of legal aid is not over, the ruling represents an important stand against the erosion of civil justice and human rights in the UK.
Watch this space.