Challenge issued in the Administrative Court over access to immigration legal aid


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Duncan Lewis Solicitors have lodged a claim against the Lord Chancellor over his failure to take action to resolve the crisis in the provision of “controlled work” in the field of immigration and asylum. This is the form of legal aid that covers life-and-death matters including asylum claims and appeals, and claims to be a victim of trafficking.

The case is based on extensive evidence that demand for this kind of legal aid has vastly exceeded supply, meaning that significant numbers of vulnerable individuals who are entitled to legal assistance are going without it. The evidence shows that one of the key drivers of the crisis is that rates for this form of work have not risen since 1996, leading to a 48% real-terms cut. The result is that controlled immigration work is often not just unprofitable but loss-making, incentivising providers to cut their offering rather than increasing it. Despite this evidence, the Lord Chancellor has insisted that the sector has sufficient capacity to meet demand and has refused or failed to take targeted action.

The claim contends that this inaction places the Lord Chancellor in breach of his duty to secure the availability of civil legal aid; is inconsistent with the purpose for which his statutory powers in relation to civil legal aid (including the power to set rates) were conferred; and is irrational and/or in breach of his duty of inquiry.

Chris Buttler KC, Eleanor Mitchell and Jack Boswell are instructed by Toufique Hossain, Jeremy Bloom, Nina Kamp and Elizabeth Cole of Duncan Lewis.