The provisions of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO 2012) will remove almost all immigration cases from the scope of legal aid with effect from 1 April 2013. Part One of this paper describes the expected changes LASPO 2012 will make and then explores their anticipated impact. It explains that large numbers of migrants and their family members are likely to be without legal advice and representation after April 2013, including in cases where the state-enforced removal or deportation from the UK of a parent is contemplated, with the consequence of separating parent from child. Part Two explores the possibility that an ‘exceptional case determination’ might provide a route back into legal aid funding, and finds that this is likely to be restricted, in immigration cases, to those making applications relying on Article 8 ECHR and who can demonstrate a particular and individual requirement for legal aid. Part Three explores the rationale for these changes, and concerns about access to justice for migrants and their family members in cases involving acute interference with rights to family and private life. It places these concerns in context, specifically the fundamental and restrictive amendments to the Immigration Rules relating to family migration introduced from July 2012. These amendments are enormously complex and their full legal implications have yet to be tested in the higher courts. Part Four questions whether the changes will in fact achieve their stated aim of cost savings or whether the costs will simply be transferred to other parts of the State (especially to the Tribunal system, in dealing with litigants in person). The paper additionally questions, in Part Five, whether the regulators are equipped to regulate the quality of the fee-charging immigration advice services to which at least some individuals will turn. The paper concludes that, at the very least, it is particularly harsh that the Government has removed the ‘currency’ of legal aid at this time, so that those with limited financial resources have neither access to legal aid advice about the meaning of those Rules nor legal aid representation to test their proper interpretation.

Changing the immigration rules and withdrawing the currency of legal aid: the impact of LASPO 2012 on migrants and their families

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