An application by the Law Society and domestic violence charity Rights for Women to remove a regulation from the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) – has failed.
The argument was that the Lord Chancellor had exceeded his powers under LAPSO 2012 when making regulation 33 which restricts the availability of legal aid to people unless they fulfill certain strict (and often limiting) criteria.
Since the introduction of LAPSO recent research of the Rights of Women shows that about 40% of women affected by violence do not have the required evidence to apply for family legal aid to pay for representation.
Andrew Caplen has expressed his disappointment at the ruling commenting that the change in legal aid eligibility
“is yet another example of the draconian cuts affecting vulnerable clients, and that the over strict tests required to bring evidence to satisfy the broader statutory meaning of domestic violence is not what parliament intended”.
He went onto say that the Law Society would continue to lobby parliament to make changes to ensure the victims of abuse can get the help they need, so they were not forced to face their perpetrators in court without legal representation, or feel unable to break free from abusive relationships because of not having access to legal aid.
The ruling was referred to as “deeply disappointing” and “devastating”.
The court recognized however that there were “justifiable criticisms” of s. 33 of LAPSO, and also that the evidence indicated that it (LASPO) may not be “operating effectively” in practice, nevertheless it was ultimately up to parliament to address the matter.
For further guidance or advice contact Anita Garside on 01636 594460 or contact anita.Garside@ringroselaw.co.uk