This case is a successful challenge in the High Court to the Lord Chancellor and the Director of Legal Aid Casework’s interpretation and application of Regulation 25 of the Civil Legal Aid Means Regulations, which defines a dependant’s allowance.
The claimant, a victim of domestic violence, sought legal aid to enforce a child custody arrangement which her ex-partner breached. The Director of Legal Aid Casework determined that she was not eligible for legal aid, meaning that she would be unrepresented in the family proceedings against her abusive ex-partner. She was not eligible because, on the Defendants’ interpretation of the Regulations, her child was not a dependent member of her household, so she was unable to have a dependant’s allowance deducted from the calculation of her disposable income. This also had the effect of capping the amount of housing costs that could be deducted from her income.
Mr Justice Andrew Baker held that the Means Regulations allowed a child to be the member of more than one household and the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance was unlawful because it restricted a child to being a member of only one household for the purpose of calculating disposable income. The Director of Legal Aid Casework ought to have taken into account the fact that legal aid was sought to return the child to the claimant’s household.
The relevant part of the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance and the decision to refuse legal aid have been quashed.