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Right to challenge state decisions must be meaningful

17 April 2019

The rule of law requires that a person must be able to challenge decisions made about them by the state, the Law Society of England and Wales said following debate about legal aid for Shamima Begum to challenge the home secretary’s decision to strip her of her citizenship.

“The award of legal aid in this case raises some of the most fundamental principles underpinning the justice system,” Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said.

“This case will test a decision made by government about one individual and in doing so it should help clarify the law on deprivation of citizenship, which has implications for us all.

“It is in the public interest that both sides are represented by expert lawyers in such a complex case with far-reaching consequences so the court can reach a reasoned and just decision.

“Legal aid is granted according to rules set by parliament. Deep government cuts have removed this vital safety net in all but the most serious cases, even for people who are living below the poverty line.

“However, legal aid is still available for people without means to challenge state decisions concerning their fundamental rights in an impartial and independent court.

“Democracy depends on this separation of powers – a court independent of government – so the state may be held accountable by the people.”

Notes to editors

The Law Society campaigns to improve access to justice for all, regardless of social background or wealth.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Harriet Beaumont | harriet.beaumont@lawsociety.org.uk | 020 8049 3854