29 Friday Jul 2016
Judgment has now been handed down in R (Public Law Project) v Lord Chancellor  UKSC 39, in which Regulations made under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) were challenged. The Court indicated at the end of the oral hearing of the appeal on 18 April of this year that the appeal had succeeded but reserved its reasoning.
The Act itself was highly controversial: it fundamentally shifted the approach to entitlement to legal aid. Prior to its enactment all matters were presumptively treated as within the scope of legal aid, except where specifically excluded. LASPO changed this so that no matters were treated as within scope, except where specifically included. Its purpose was to restrict access to legal aid as part of the broader ‘austerity’ agenda. It was hoped that its effect would be to cut £350million from the legal aid budget. The National Audit Office has since reported that there were 28% fewer civil legal aid representation certificates issued, and a drop in civil legal “help” (advice and assistance) matters funded of 70%, in 2013-14 as compared to 2012-13. Regulations made under LASPO have sought to further reduce entitlement and reduce expenditure – and as the courts have found, not always lawfully. Continue reading »