Vulnerable people locked out of legal aid to challenge unlawful deportation orders
A Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigation has found that three vulnerable people living in the UK were locked out of being able to access the justice system to challenge deportation orders because of conflicting government procedures and lengthy delays.
(The Home Office found the three people were rough sleeping and said this was evidence they were not exercising their EU Treaty rights.)
The investigation came following a complaint by a Law Centre after the Legal Aid Agency failed to provide legal aid to its clients in a fair and timely way. The Law Centre said the delays and the Legal Aid Agency’s refusal to backdate the legal aid certificates caused it losses of around £50,000, which it was unable to recoup.
Julie Bishop, Director of the Law Centres Network -
We welcome the Ombudsman’s finding of maladministration by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). This is not an isolated incident: many Law Centres and other legal aid providers face delayed decisions by LAA. In some cases, we as a membership body are called upon to help get the Law Centre clarity with mere hours before a case is due to be heard in court.
In our experience, these problems stem from a working culture within the LAA, and have nothing to do with protecting the public purse. In effect, it restricts access to legal aid, making it harder for lawyers to launch legal action with confidence and for people to resolve their legal problems. The result is that it piles pressure on legal aid providers. All this runs against the very purpose of the Legal Aid Agency. We call on them to fix it now.