In ruling that the guidelines issued by the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, were unlawful, Lord Dyson commented that they wrongly neutralised the factors that should be taken into account in deciding whether to grant exceptional funding, by stating that the threshold for funding is very high and that legal aid is required only in rare and extreme circumstances. The threshold test will now be eased.
The Government's 2013 reforms in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 ('LASPO') meant that legal aid was removed from many areas of civil law (including most family, debt, housing and immigration cases). Moreover, the safety net of exceptional funding under LASPO in order to safeguard a person's human rights, seriously limited access to justice.
Guidance on who is eligible for legal aid in exceptional cases is "unlawful", judges have ruled. Legal aid was removed from many areas of civil law as part of reforms introduced last year. The High Court had said the guidelines on who was still eligible were "too restrictive" and overturned refusals of legal aid in six immigration cases. The government appealed against that decision but Court of Appeal judges have now upheld the original ruling.