Legal aid anomaly corrected after means test court challenge

The Ministry of Justice has made a long overdue change to the legal aid means test, removing an anomalous rule which counted mortgage debt over £100,000 as assets, the Law Society of England and Wales said, responding to news that a Statutory Instrument has been laid to settle a legal challenge brought by the Public Law Project on behalf of RH and supported by the Law Society.

Law Society of England and Wales president David Greene said: “The Law Society is proud to have supported this challenge, which raises issues of huge importance for access to justice for the most vulnerable.

“There was a clear injustice in denying people legal aid on the grounds of mortgage debt. Nobody should be expected to sell their home and make themselves homeless in order to access justice. It is good news the Ministry of Justice is addressing this immediately through legislation."

“The issue of mortgage debt is just one of many flaws in the means test that we have been highlighting to ministers. Our research has shown the means test is preventing even families living below the poverty line from accessing legal aid. This must be dealt with in the present government’s review of the means test."

“This case is part of a programme of work we have undertaken with the Public Law Project to improve access to justice. The Law Society engages in strategic litigation like this when a strong case promotes justice, where a judgment would provide clarity and have broad consequences beyond the individual case.” 

Notes to editors

View the Statutory Instrument: The Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

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