Political momentum on the issue of domestic violence is growing with the publication of Labour’s report.

The report considers the devastating impact of legal aid reforms on access to justice for the victims of domestic violence.

Issues highlighted include:

  1. The problem for victims in obtaining the evidence of domestic violence required to qualify for legal aid. It quotes the Women’s Aid research that shows 43 per cent of women do not have the prescribed forms of evidence.
  2. The escalation of problems due to the delays involved in obtaining evidence.
  3. The popular belief that legal aid is unavailable across the board means vulnerable clients are not seeking help at all. Concern over the decreasing number of legal aid practitioners. This is making referrals difficult and allowing vulnerable people to slip through the net.

 

The report makes recommendations to extend the evidence criteria for legal aid to include information from Independent Domestic Violence Advisers, women’s support organisations and police call-out records in response to domestic violence incidents eliminate charging for evidence required for legal aid which is used as proof of a victim’s abuse.

To improve women’s ability to access legal advice and representation in vital family law proceedings to enable them to safe and equal futures for themselves and their families. Consideration of the removal of the evidence criteria for eligibility the report concludes by stating: These legal aid reforms were misguided and are not achieving what was described as their primary objective – to provide publicly funded legal support for those most vulnerable and in need. Women face very bleak choices – stay in an abusive relationship at great risk, perhaps to children as well; represent themselves at court; or fund legal representation themselves with a likelihood of falling into debt.

This inequality, unfairness and discrimination cannot continue.

If you are the victim of domestic abuse contact our domestic abuse team 24 hours a day seven days a week on 07872 456369 and our team will be happy to help.

 

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