Liberty launches challenge over refusal of legal aid for PSPO cases

Human rights organisation Liberty has launched a legal challenge against the Legal Aid Agency over its refusal to grant legal aid for challenges to Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs).

Liberty said: “The Legal Aid Agency will not provide financial assistance to challenge PSPOs even if they disproportionately and unjustifiably affect the poorest in society – insisting concerned locals are not directly affected by an Order and that the Agency has not been empowered by the Government to fund PSPO cases.

“The Agency’s position makes it near-impossible for homeless people cruelly targeted by PSPOs to enforce their basic human rights.”

Rosie Brighouse, Lawyer for Liberty, said: “Many local authorities are criminalising those in need, but the Legal Aid Agency's position robs all but the wealthy of their ability to challenge council abuse of power.  

“It is essential this case goes ahead so that anyone can challenge illegitimate Public Space Protection Orders.”

Liberty highlighted the case of a Poole resident it represented, who sought to challenge the introduction of a PSPO by her borough council in June 2018. The case was put on hold when the Legal Aid Agency refused to assist.

The Legal Aid Agency is reported to have said that the case was of no benefit to the client and insisted any litigation could be financed by crowdfunding instead.

“The body is also interpreting the law in a manner which makes legal aid completely unavailable for PSPO cases,” Liberty said.

In its submissions to the Court, Liberty has argued that locals are directly affected by any measures which put them at risk of criminalisation, that the relevant legislation does permit the Agency to fund PSPO cases, and that the ability to challenge PSPOs is of great public importance.

Liberty has instructed Jamie Burton and Angela Fitzpatrick of Doughty Street Chambers

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