Actions by homeless people against local authorities are not judicial reviews and can be conducted only by firms with housing contracts, the High Court ruled today.
East Midlands firm Bhatia Best had appealed against the Legal Aid Agency’s refusal to allow it to conduct a number of homelessness cases, following changes to the funding rules introduced by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).
Prior to 1 April, when LASPO was implemented, the firm had received civil legal aid funding for its work acting for clients against homelessness decisions under section 204 of the Housing Act 1996.
LASPO changed the rule to mean that a firm had to have authorisation to conduct specific categories of cases.
While Bhatia Best had a public law contract, it did not have authorisation to carry out housing cases: although the law on such cases requires the court to apply judicial review principles, the High Court ruled that section 204 appeals do not fall within the public law category.
It therefore refused the firm’s claim.
Jon Wakefield, partner in Bhatia Best’s civil claims department, told the Gazette the firm accepts the court’s judgment and will not appeal. To do otherwise, he said, would create cost exposure.
‘This is a case about practitioners, not clients. Clients can still go to housing lawyers to get advice on homelessness cases, but public law practitioners cannot do homelessness appeals,’ he explained.
Read the full judgment.