PLP has been granted permission to challenge the introduction of the residence test for legal aid. The proposed test would exclude from entitlement to civil legal aid those people with strong cases but no money to pay for legal representation, who (a) are not lawfully resident in the UK and (b) have not been lawfully resident for 12 months.

PLP’s remit is to facilitate access to justice for disadvantaged groups. The proposed residence test will remove the protection of the courts altogether for a great many people who fall foul of it. It is contrary to the principle that there should be equality before the law. That is why PLP has taken the step of going to court to challenge its introduction.

In the face of robust opposition from the Government, yesterday the honourable Mr Justice Turner not only granted permission but also awarded a Protective Costs Order (PCO) in favour of PLP. This is significant as it limits PLP’s exposure to the risk of an adverse costs order and so makes the challenge viable.

Furthermore, the claim has been expedited, meaning the substantive hearing should take place before the residence test comes into force. Subject to the outcome of the challenge, we have now been told by the Ministry of Justice’s lawyers that the introduction of the test is to be postponed from 31 March (as previously indicated) to sometime in May 2014, at the earliest.

PLP would like to thank all those who have supported the case this far, including our solicitor, John Halford and his team at Bindmans, our barristers, Michael Fordham QC, Ben Jaffey (acting pro bono), Naina Patel, and Alison Pickup, and all those many colleagues who provided evidence of the harm that the test will cause if it is brought into force.