Domestic Violence Gateway LASPO removed legal aid funding for all private law family which included cases involving divorce, child contact and finances unless there is evidence of domestic violence or child abuse.
The government ensured victims would continue to get legal aid and the government introduced an evidence test for domestic violence funding through the legal aid scheme.
Evidence would have to be provided to show that within a two year timescale they had suffered domestic abuse in order to get legal aid. Rights of Women research shows that the Gateway still excludes a number of victims from being granted legal aid funding which they should be entitled to.
It was provided that approximately 40% of women who had experienced or were experiencing domestic violence could not produce the necessary evidence. Rights of Women, who were supported by the Law Society challenged this resulting in the last government reviewing the regulations for family law legal aid and the impact of the evidence needed.
The last government committed to making it easier for victims of domestic violence to obtain legal aid. It is hoped the new government will also commit to this. The government have introduced interim regulations covering the two areas of concerns highlighted in the legal action: Rights of Women, Evidencing domestic violence: nearly 3 years on, December 2015 http://rightsofwomen.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Evidencing-domestic-violence-V.pdf 28 Rights of Women, Evidencing domestic violence: reviewing the amended regulations http://rightsofwomen.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Evidencing-domestic-violence-IV.pdf
The time limit to provide the evidence has been increased from two to five years. Under the new guidance an evidence checklist including bank statements, communications with the perpetrator (texts or emails), a letter from a domestic violence support service or a narrative statement from the survivor. Delegated powers should be able to be used by Solicitors, and advisers who are approved under the legal aid contract to confirm that a client is a victim of domestic abuse. It is recommended that the new government should commit to the previous government’s proposed change that the legal aid under the Domestic Violence Gateway should not have any time limit from the date of the last incident of violence. It is also recommended that the government should implement the proposed change domestic violence support organisations should be able to sanction that a person is a victim of domestic abuse.
(According to 27 Park Square Chambers)
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