Human Rights Activist Wins Legal Aid Review

Article excerpt

GOVERNMENT attempts to clamp down on legal aid costs were dealt a blow in the High Court today.

Human rights campaigner Maya Evans won a judicial review of the bid to cut back on government-funded civil cases. New rules introduced in March last year were intended to save up to an estimated Pounds 100,000 a year by ending funding for applicants who would not directly benefit from their claims.

These include cases such as alleged torture in Iraq and Afghanistan, brought "in the public interest" not by the victims but by outside bodies. Ms Evans claimed the Government aimed to save money by blocking "politically motivated cases". Today Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Mr Justice Stadlen, granted her application for judicial review and described the Government's consultation process leading to the new rules as "legally defective".

Ms Evans had already successfully challenged the Ministry of Defence over its policy of handing over prisoners arrested by British troops in Afghanistan to the local authorities. She claimed the Afghan security service was notorious for torturing its prisoners.

Her QC, Timothy Otty, argued that if the new rules on legal aid had been in force earlier she could never have brought her case to court. …