Court judgment will extend legal aid to some refugees seeking to bring family to the UK
In July 2012 the SLF grant funded Islington Law Centre (ILC) to consider possible challenges to the lawfulness of aspects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012.
ILC proposed that legal assistance for refugee family reunion cases should still be available under a strict statutory interpretation of LASPO. In addition, challenges to the Exceptional Cases Funding (ECF) scheme were considered. This scheme was created under LASPO to extend support to cases which would not ordinarily quality for legal aid, where the claimant could show that their rights under European law or the European Convention on Human Rights would be breached.
ILC took a case to the High Court involving refugee family reunion. Its main argument was that funding for this matter was still available under legal aid, but that alternatively the case was such that the client should be granted assistance under ECF. The case was successful on both grounds but was later appealed.
The Court Of Appeal rejected the argument that legal aid remained available for family reunion cases, but found that the guidance governing ECF was too restrictive and in some respects was not in accordance with the law.In relation to refugee family reunion cases, the Court ruled that the exclusion from ECF may breach a refugee's right to family life under Article 8 of the ECHR. The court also ruled that the best interest of a child remained a very important consideration even when that child was not in the UK.
This is good news as many refugees wishing to enforce their right to have their families, including children, join them in the UK are often unable to pay for the specialist legal advice they need to complete the application procedure.
For more information on the case click here