IS v The Director of Legal Aid Casework and Anor [2015] EWCH 1965 (Admin) (15 July 2015)

Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Claire RobsonThis was a High Court Judgment given by Mr Justice Collins on 15th July 2015 in respect of the Legal Aid Agency’s ‘Exceptional Funding Scheme. The LAA’s Exceptional Funding Scheme was introduced during a time of significant funding cuts contained in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. The Exceptional Funding Scheme was brought in to act as a ‘safety net’ to protect vulnerable individuals whose rights would be breached due to these funding cuts.

The case in question was brought by the Official Solicitor on behalf of ‘IS’ to clearly establish the legal situation for this client and also other vulnerable individuals. In this case IS was a disabled man from Nigeria, who was blind, had significant mental difficulties and could not care for himself.  IS lacked litigation capacity. Despite these difficulties, IS had been refused Exceptional Case Funding to enable his legal representatives to apply to the Home Office to have his position in the country established. IS required his position to be established so that he could qualify for health care services. The LAA had stated that IS’s Article 8 rights were not affected by his immigration status; however this had been rejected by the Court of Appeal.

In his Judgment Mr Justice Collins branded the LAA’s Exceptional Funding Scheme as ‘unlawful.’  He referred to the cases of Re: D (A Child) [2014] EWFC 39 and MG and JG v. JF and JFG [2015] EWHC 504 (Fam), amongst others, highlighting previous cases with funding issues and concluded that the Scheme was failing to provide the promised safety net. The LAA’s Exceptional Funding Scheme was therefore not ensuring Applicants’ human rights were not being breached, which it was brought in to do so. The complexity of the Exceptional Funding Application procedure, the rigidity of the merits test and the decision making procedures were also criticised. Mr Justice Collins made clear that significant changes needed to be made to the Scheme.

The full Judgment can be read here

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