Foreign nationals are to be denied the right to obtain legal aid for civil cases until they have lived in Britain for at least a year, the justice secretary Chris Grayling will announce this week. In the latest example of a tougher approach on immigration, Grayling said the government was particularly keen to target people who come to Britain for “extraordinarily short periods of time” and then claim legal aid to fund custody battles.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Grayling said he hoped the changes would ensure that illegal immigrants, failed asylum seekers and people on tourist or student visas would no longer be able to apply for legal aid for civil cases. He said: “There are a number of areas where somebody who comes to this country even on a tourist visa can access civil legal aid. We are going to change that. There have been examples of people who have come to the country for extraordinarily short periods of time who have had a relationship breakdown and then they end up in our courts at our expense to determine custody of the children.” “This will exclude people who enter the country illegally, who up to now have been able to access our legal aid system in a way I don’t think should ever have happened.”The changes are designed to help the government cut the £1.7bn legal aid budget by £300m. Grayling said that QCs “should reasonably expect” not to earn more than the prime minister’s salary of £142,000 in cases funded by the state.
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