Important domestic violence case for refugees

The challenge was by a post-flight spouse of a refugee who was accepted to have been a victim of domestic violence and sought access to public funds through the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC) (incorporated in Section DVILR of Appendix FM). The Home Office determined that she could not be considered under the relevant rule due to her husband not having settled status at the date she secured leave to enter the UK.

The spouse (Mrs. T) JR’d the Home Office decision. Though expressing concern that there were some difficulties with the drafting of this part of the Rules, Dingemans J held that the relevant Rule was to be read as requiring a victim of domestic violence to have been either married to a British citizen or a settled person at the date of the last grant of leave to enter or remain and therefore the rules did not provide the Secretary of State with a discretion to consider persons such as post-flight spouses of refugees, despite the strong liklihood that the spouse would ultimately secure settlement, as occurred in this case.

You can read the judgment – R (on the application of T) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWHC 2453 (Admin) in full here.

Mrs. T was represented by Solange Valdez, Ealing Law Centre and by Ms. Judith Farbey QC, Doughty Street Chambers, and Mr. Declan O’Callaghan, Landmark Chambers. Ealing Law Centre initially acted pro bono, as the client did not meet the requirements of paragraph 28 of Schedule 1 of LASPO; but the JR was legal aid funded.

Mrs. T’s legal representatives intend to appeal.

 

 

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Legal aid annual statistics

Following up our note on the blog, we have a more detailed discussion of the legal aid annual statistics in this month’s Legal Action. It is also available on the LAG website here (scroll down to second article).

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LAA guidance on refugee family reunion cases

Six weeks after the High Court ruled that it was in scope of LASPO, the LAA has finally issued some guidance for practitioners.

Immigration contract holders can open matter starts for this work – and will be paid for it even if the MoJ appeal is successful. (Edit – it appears from the note on the LAA site that, if the appeal is successful, funding will stop at that point, even if partway through a case, but will not be retrospectively withdrawn).

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Legal aid – tell the NAO what you think but be quick

The National Audit Office is currently undertaking a study into whether the government’s civil legal aid reforms can be considered to represent value for money. The report will go to the respected Public Accounts Committee later this year. The NAO says that the views of the providers of legal aid services will form an important part of the study.

It is seeking your views through a short online survey, which will close on Friday 25th July 2014. It should take 15-20 minutes to complete and all responses will remain strictly anonymous. You can find the survey here.

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Filed under Actions Against the Police, Advocacy, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Costs, Family, Housing, Immigration, LASPO, Mental Health, Policy, Public Law, Social welfare

MOJ to appeal residence test JR result

Further to our post yesterday, the MOJ has indicated that it intends to appeal. At 11.56 am on Tuesday July 15 2014, the MOJ tweeted ‘Following today’s judgement on the JR of the civil legal aid residence test, @MOJGovUK intends to appeal’  Link here

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Residence test declared unlawful

In the JR taken by the Public Law Project, the residence test has been declared unlawful in no uncertain terms by the Divisional Court. The judgment, which was unanimous and runs to 40 pages, is expressed in robust terms:

Lord Justice Moses said: …..’it is not possible to justify such discrimination in an area where all are equally subject to the law, resident or not, and equally entitled to its protection, resident or not.’

He also said: .. ‘the instrument is ultra vires and unlawful. I conclude that LASPO does not permit such a criterion to be introduced by secondary legislation. It extends the scope and purpose of the statute and is, accordingly, outwith the power conferred…..’

We hope that the MOJ would be discouraged from any appeal, having read the judgment, and the residence test will be immediately withdrawn rather than postponed pending an appeal.

You can read the PLP press release here.

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LAA amends scope of community care services

Once again (see our previous post on child care deductions for students), Ben Hoare Bell has succeeded in persuading the Ministry of Justice to make an amendment that will benefit practitioners and clients alike. The firm pointed out that Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) were abolished under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and replaced with Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). PCTs were named as ‘relevant persons’ under paragraph 6 of Schedule 1 but CCGs were not, which caused a problem due to the way schedule 1 of LASPO restricts legal aid to services which are explicitly within scope.

However, Ben Hoare Bell was recently informed that regulations had been laid to include CCGs within the scope of Schedule 1. You can read the letter here. The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Community Care) Regulations 2014 came into force on 7 July and you can find them on the LASPO Resources page under Statutory Instruments – civil.

Many thanks to Ben Hoare Bell for taking this up with the MOJ and letting us know the outcome.

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