Last week Mr Justice Green, a senior High Court judge, handed down a judgement in which he condemned immigration law firms who resort to litigation as a strategy to thwart removal proceedings for immigrants illegally in the UK, regardless of any merit to their case. Mr Justice Green said that:
“most immigration and asylum practitioners do not have legal aid franchises, clients are privately funded, and they are frequently vulnerable and desperate. We sought information as to the fees demanded by these solicitors in the cases before us. The sums vary, but they invariably run into multiples of thousands of pounds. To raise funds to pay for legal assistance, clients most often seek support from family and friends. The solicitors will not generally act unless they are placed in funds’.
His comments highlight dismay among the judiciary with regard to the Ministry of Justice’s slow progress towards reviewing the effect of the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (Laspo) Act.
The legislation removed more than £350m from the legal aid budget and ended the right to legal representation in large areas of the law, including immigration.
Mr Justice Green’s comments follow on from the petition started by Anna McMorrin, Labour MP for Cardiff North. The petition states: ‘The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 saw immigration being taken “out of scope” for legal aid from [April 2013]. This has affected people forced to prove their immigration status in the UK, despite living here lawfully, including the Windrush era and their families.” So far the petition has only attracted 400 signatures; it requires at least 10,000 to force the government to respond to it.