A Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigation published today has found that Legal Aid Agency delays resulted in three vulnerable EU citizens living in the UK being locked out of accessing the justice system to challenge deportation orders.

These findings chime with what PLP already know: barriers to legal aid still exist and fail the very people it exists to protect.

Our Lead Lawyer Daniel Rourke commented:

“People who need legal aid are often in desperate and urgent circumstances. When a person’s home, health, family, or right to work is at stake, action must be taken quickly. Because of the time it takes the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) to respond to legal aid applications, to protect people who are in such vulnerable circumstances, legal aid lawyers are often under pressure to work at the risk of not being paid.

“The recent findings of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman highlights the LAA’s maladministration in one particular context, but long delays occur in many other areas of the LAA’s decision making, including where Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) is applied for.

“PLP has repeatedly called for a fairer legal aid system. This includes the need for an effective urgent procedure for ECF applications, where individuals face a potential breach of their fundamental rights if Legal Aid is not provided. Our analysis revealed that in many cases the need to obtain ECF resulted in delays of almost a year before a person secured a lawyer to help with their case. Such delays result in real injustices to the people our system is designed to protect.”

Read the PHSO report in full