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Petition Legal aid should only be available to UK residents

Pass a law to ensure only UK residents are able to apply for legal aid.

This would stop tax payers money being used to represent people who are not UK residents.

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Government responded

This response was given on 30 March 2021

In England and Wales, the availability of legal aid is governed by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Offenders Act 2012.

The ability of individuals to resolve their legal issues is vital for a just society and it is crucial that people are able to access support when they need it. A core element of this support is access to publicly funded advice and representation where it is necessary. The Government provides legal aid in England and Wales to ensure those who need it can access legal advice and representation.

While public funding for legal services through legal aid is a fundamental part of the justice system, the government had to make some tough choices as to who should receive legal aid in order to make the best use of limited resources and ensure it was targeted at those who need it most. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012 redefined the scope of civil legal aid – these reforms were based on four main objectives:

i. To discourage unnecessary and adversarial litigation at public expense;
ii. To target legal aid to those who need it most;
iii. To make significant savings to the cost of the scheme;
iv. To deliver better overall value for money for the taxpayer.

For an individual to receive legal aid, their issue must be within the scope of the legal aid scheme as set out in Part 1 of Schedule 1 to LASPO, and they must generally pass a means and merits test. Where an issue falls outside the scope of legal aid, funding may still be available through the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) Scheme, where there is a risk that not providing legal aid could result in a breach of human rights or retained enforceable EU law, subject to the statutory means and merits tests. Legal aid applications are determined by the Legal Aid Agency on an individual basis. It is important that decisions on legal aid eligibility are, and are seen to be, free from political and Government influence.

Legal aid is a devolved matter, so in Scotland and Northern Ireland, legal aid availability is determined by their devolved governments, rather than the UK government.

Ministry of Justice

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