Challenges to Legal Aid in Domestic Abuse CasesPosted on 22nd January 2015 by Goodwins Family Law Solicitors
In September of this year, the High Court made a decision to allow a challenge to the rules on legal aid for domestic abuse victims. The original government ruling, passed in April 2013, required domestic violence victims to provide a prescribed form of evidence if they were to receive legal aid. The changes were made by the government in alignment with the cuts to England and Wales’ annual legal aid bill, which aimed to reduce the bill by £350m from £2bn a year.
The campaign group Rights of Women feel that the cuts prevent domestic abuse victims from getting the proper legal aid they deserve, and that the parameters for evidence required to obtain legal aid are too narrow and therefore exclude too many victims of domestic violence. The group conducted a survey along with Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid, which showed that over half of women who had experienced or were experiencing domestic violence did not have the prescribed evidence to receive legal aid.
Statistics show that two women are killed each week by a current or former partner, and 500 women who have recently experienced domestic violence take their own lives every year. One of the key points of Rights of Women’s campaign is that due to the stringent nature of the prescribed forms of evidence required by the courts, a lot of women do not qualify for legal aid. Because they do not qualify, they eschew taking legal action and as such are at risk of further abuse, or possibly even death.
For women that cannot provide the required evidence to receive legal aid, they can either turn to private legal assistance or if they cannot afford to pay to fully instruct a law firm to act for them, informal assistance, such as help with the preparation of their application. If neither of these are an option, then legal action is likely to be totally avoided, which means that abusers face no legal consequences for their actions. Of course, if legal action is taken, then those who have comitted acts of domestic violence can face severe criminal penalties.
The judicial hearing is scheduled for the 12th of December, and Rights of Women hope that the recent changes in legal aid will be adjusted so that public legal aid is available to victims of domestic violence across the country.
Here at Goodwins Family Law, we offer our expert advice for all areas of divorce and matrimonial law. We provide legal advice, representation and injunctions for domestic abuse cases, ensuring that you receive professional, sensitive and realistic advice for the duration of your legal process. If you would like to know more about us, or any of the services we offer, get in touch with us today.