The fight by two charities against cuts to prison law legal aid will continue after the Court of Appeal granted permission to appeal the High Court’s rejection of the challenge.
The Howard League and the Prisoners’ Advice Service brought the challenge over the lord chancellor’s decision to cut most aspects of prison law from legal aid funding, including cases involving mother and baby units, all resettlement and sentence planning cases and some parole board hearings.
The charities claim the cuts, imposed in December 2013, undermine prisoners’ rights and rehabilitation and end up costing the taxpayer more.
The challenge concerned two cases. The first argues that the removal of legal aid for a small number of important Parole Board cases is unlawful. The second argues that the removal of legal aid for a range of cases affecting prisoners’ progress through their sentence towards release is also unlawful.
In March the High Court rejected the challenge, stating that while the cuts may well be unfair and may not save money, the issues were political not legal.
In dismissing the charities’ application, the court said it can ‘well understand the concerns’, but said: ‘We simply cannot see, at least at this point in time, how these concerns can arguably constitute unlawful action by the lord chancellor.’
The two charities are represented by Simon Creighton at London firm Bhatt Murphy and Phillippa Kaufmann QC at Matrix Chambers, Martha Spurrier and Alex Gask of Doughty Street Chambers.