Plans to slash the number of law firms allowed to do criminal legal aid work at police stations and magistrates’ courts have been dropped, while an 8.75% cut to legal aid fees criminal lawyers earn has been suspended for a year.
In September 2013 the Lord Chancellor proposed bringing in a residence test with regard to the provision of Legal Aid. The proposal involved an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPOA) 2012 by means of a statutory instrument. Public Law Project (PLP) took a challenge to this proposal on the basis that it was outside the aims of LASPOA 2012 and that it was discriminatory. Before the High Court PLP were successful. The Lord Chancellor appealed to the Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal allowed this appeal.
Appeals were taken to the Court of Appeal by A and also by SR, PR and W challenging the decisions to apply the bedroom tax in their cases with regard to extra bedrooms they had. A had suffered from very extreme domestic violence and was in what was known as a Sanctuary Scheme and had a safe room in her house. SR and PR were the grandparents of W who is a severely disabled child. They had an extra bedroom for carers who stayed overnight. The case centred on the fact that these two types of case did not come under the exceptions contained in Regulation B13 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 and, thus, the appellants had part of their housing benefit removed because of the extra room.
This claim concerned a challenge brought by an Irish Traveller to a “local connection” requirement contained within North Somerset Council’s housing allocations scheme, which had been extended beyond Part VI Housing Act 1996 allocations to cover Gypsy/Traveller site allocations. The effect of that requirement was that the Claimant, who could not point to a local connection to North Somerset, was denied entry to the Council’s housing register.
The Government has done a u-turn and decided not to repeal the Human Rights Act. This is wonderful news for all those disadvantaged and underprivileged people who may need it as an essential ground in arguing their case. See:-
The Equality and Human Rights Commission have produced the report ‘Is Britain Fairer? The state of equality and human rights 2015’.
In the Housing and Planning Bill which is currently going through Parliament, the Government propose to abolish Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments. For a blog on this matter by Chris Johnson of CLP, Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers and the independent planning consultant, Dr Simon Ruston, see: http://travellerstimes.org.uk/Blogs–Features/ASSESSING-THE-NEED-FOR-GYPSY-AND-TRAVELLER-SITES-.aspx
Europe’s largest local housing authority, Birmingham City Council told a Judge last week that they had tried to evict households without going through the correct court processes. We acted for one such family who were at risk of the same thing happening to them and we are encouraging those who may have been affected to see an experienced Housing Law Solicitor urgently.
Lord Avebury, who, despite his ill health, continues to campaign on behalf of Gypsies and Travellers, has commissioned a report from the Planning Consultant, Dr Simon Ruston. This report looks at how the local authorities in Dorset have failed to comply with Government Planning Guidance. You can find a link to the report here:-
As mentioned below, Parminder Sanghera of the Travellers Advice Team was shortlisted for an award but, on 1st July 2015 at the awards ceremony, she was pipped at the post by Jayesh Kunwardia of Hodge Jones and Allen, a partner in that firm who had recently won a leading housing case in the Supreme Court. However it was an excellent result for Parminder to get into the final three for this award. Parminder is currently considering returning to the High Court to challenge the continuing failure of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ensure that the results of Gypsy and Traveller planning appeal decisions in the Green Belt are delivered. Watch this space!