The government has now loosened restrictions that have been preventing certain victims of domestic abuse from accessing Legal Aid.
Domestic abuse victims are currently required to provide evidence that the abuse has taken place within the past 2 years in order for them to qualify for Legal Aid. Regulations from 2012 stated that legal aid could be withdrawn when cases reached a final hearing if the evidence was considered by the court to be out of date.
The changes are a result of forceful campaigns by the Law Society and other practitioner groups. The Society argued that it could not have been parliament’s intention to grant legal aid for a case initially if it was only to be withdrawn in the middle of proceedings.
Law Society president Andrew Caplen said it was pleased the government had fixed ‘this unconsidered technicality’.
However, Andrew added that the ‘over strict’ tests required by the regulations still meant ‘some survivors are excluded from accessing legal aid for family law disputes against an abusive ex-partner or relative, and we hope the Ministry of Justice will continue to work with us to resolve these problems’.
The ruling was first questioned by Cris McCurley, Partner at Ben Hoare Bell. McCurley called for the the 24-month time limit imposed to be removed altogether.
She said: ‘The government’s own research is very clear that the domestic violence impact on victims does not dissipate after 24 months. The only reason for putting a 24-month time limit can be to save money, but it does not protect victims.’
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson has said that the government was ‘absolutely clear that victims of domestic violence must receive legal aid in order to break free from abusive relationships’, the spokesperson added that ‘ministers have agreed to amend the rules so that victims of domestic violence can be confident they will receive the support they need’.
If you require assistance in obtaining Legal Aid funding, or have been a victim of domestic abuse, please contact our Family Clerk:
Denise Pinder: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: 0161 330 6821
Out of hours 24hour line: 07785 531221