The Legal Aid Agency will have to gear up for another High Court showdown after a civil liberties group was granted permission to challenge the lack of public funding to help homeless people targeted by protection orders aimed at tackling anti-social behaviour.
Liberty says councils have used public space protection orders to criminalise homelessness but that the agency will not help people challenge the order 'even if it unjustifiably affects the poorest in society'.
Local authorities can make the orders to ban activities carried out in a public placed deemed to have a detrimental effect on residents' quality of life. The Home Office says the orders should be used proportionately to tackle anti-social behaviour and not to target specific groups or vulnerable people. Liberty says they have been made to ban rough sleeping.
Challenges to the orders do not fall within the scope of legal aid.
When Liberty applied to the High Court in October to challenge the lack of legal aid, legal officer Rosie Brighouse said at the time that the agency's position 'robs all but the wealthy of their ability to challenge council abuse of power'.
Yesterday, she tweeted:
Today was a good day in court https://t.co/q9kyMB0elh— Rosie Brighouse (@RBrighouse1) January 15, 2019
Last year Liberty represented a Poole resident who sought to challenge her borough council's order in June but the case was put on hold when the agency refused to assist. According to Liberty, the agency said the case did not benefit the client and insisted that any litigation could be financed by crowdfunding instead.
Liberty says the orders are 'already notoriously difficult to challenge' as legal cases must be lodged within six weeks of an order coming into force. The agency's stance 'compounds the situation, making it almost impossible to get to court'.
The High Court case will be heard within three months. Liberty has instructed Jamie Burton and Angela Patrick of Doughty Street Chambers.
A spokesperson for the LAA said: 'It would be inappropriate for us to comment as legal proceedings are ongoing.'