On 3 December 2012, the House of Lords debated two sets of regulations issued under the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). The Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations set out the criteria to be used to determine whether legal aid should be granted. The Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Amendment of Schedule 1) Order amends LASPO to bring certain welfare benefits cases back into scope.
The merits criteria debate concerned the test for access to public funding for judicial review. Concern was raised by Peers that legal aid would no longer be available for urgent judicial reviews and homelessness cases. In light of the concerns raised the Government agreed to amend the regulations before April 2013.
In relation to the welfare benefits provision, the House was concerned that the Government had fallen short of promises made during debates when LASPO went through Parliament. The House agreed that the provision would deny many claimants a fair hearing. An amendment proposed by Lord Bach (Labour) was passed and the Government will now need to draft new regulations to satisfy the concerns raised by Peers.
Many thanks to all YLAL members who assisted in writing to Peers to raise concerns about these regulations.