Legal Aid reforms

A few months ago we reported on the proposals to reform legal aid, together with why we thought they were a bad idea here, here , here, here and here

 Those proposals have now come to fruition with the publication of  the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

The Bill provisions – what’s out of scope?

In a nutshell the effect of the Bill is that funding will not generally be available for immigration cases and appeals. Regrettably this extends to refugee family reunion cases and domestic violance cases, and Article 8 ECHR (right to private and family life) cases and appeals including by failed asylum seekers.

It is proposed that there will be some provision for ‘Exceptional funding’ in cases where this is necessary to avoid a breach of ECHR rights, it is not intended that this is generally for use in cases of this kind.

The Bill provisions – what’s in scope?

It is proposed that funding will remain available for:

  • asylum cases and appeals
  • challenges to immigration detention
  • advice on claims for support
  • judicial review  – there are exceptions here

What can you do?

The Bill had its second reading on 29 June 2011. It will now go through to the Committee stage sometime between 9 July and 13 October

The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association is lobbying Parliamentarians about the serious effects that these changes would have for migrants, and those who have been refused asylum. They have detailed briefings and fact sheets on their website, but unless MPs here from YOU- the very people that deal with these cases/ the very people that have benefitted from legal aid, they’re not likely to do very much! You can help by:

  • Writing to your MP, asking them to vote against the bill and outlining your concerns.
  • Submitting evidence to the Public Bill Committee/ lobbying its members (we will publish details of the committee once it has been decided)
  • Joining and getting active with Justice for All and/or the Sound Off for Justice campaign.
  • Acting locally through  local papers, local counsellors, local organisations. You could work with others  in your area or field of specialism and make sure they include concerns about immigration advice in their arguments against cuts in general, or cuts to legal aid

If no-one opposes the Bill it will go through unammended, if some oppose the bill, it will most likely go through, but it’s our only chance of effecting a change, and at the least limiting the ugliest aspects of it!

About jcwi

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a key campaigning voice in the field of immigration, asylum and nationality law and policy. It is completely independent from government funding, remaining entirely free from government influence. View all posts by jcwi

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