The High Court has found that the Legal Aid Agency had unlawfully refused exceptional case funding in several immigration cases, one of which included a case of a refugee seeking family reunification with her husband and 16 year old child.
Islington Law Centre has acted for the refugee, instructing barristers to argue that refugee family reunion remained within the scope of legal aid on a strict interpretation of the relevant provisions in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012.
Mr Justice Collins determined that this was in fact the position and that, even if he was wrong on that, the refugee was entitled exceptional cases funding. The case was informed by Law Centre research, funded by the Strategic Legal Fund, which identified key potential arguments in challenges involving refugee family reunion and trafficking.
This is a landmark judgment which could broaden the scope for applying the exceptional case funding (ECF) scheme. This scheme was intended specifically as a 'safety net', providing legal aid in cases where its denial would put fundamental rights at risk.
For more on this judgment see the following websites: