Boost for justice for victims of domestic violence after legal aid rule change
08 January 2018
8 January 2018
The number of domestic abuse victims able to access free legal advice is set to increase after the government relented on excessively strict evidence rules introduced in 2013.
The hurdles – including arbitrary time limits imposed on evidence of domestic abuse - were introduced by the government as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).
The restrictions resulted in nearly half of all victims being unable to access the vital legal help they need.
Law Society of England and Wales vice president Christina Blacklaws said: “We welcome this reform, which will make it easier for victims to qualify for legal aid and access essential help and support.”
“The impact of domestic abuse is often lifelong. Any time limit imposed on victims of abuse is inappropriate.”
The types of evidence that can be accepted for victims to access legal aid have now been broadened to include statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing support officers.
The changes come into effect today.
The domestic violence gateway was introduced as part of LASPO and effectively removed legal aid for private family law matters save where individuals could prove they were victims of domestic abuse.
Following a successful judicial review, the Ministry of Justice agreed to a review and has worked closely with the Law Society, LAPG, Resolution and Rights of Women to ensure that the evidence required was more appropriate.
The Law Society will shortly be publishing a practice note for practitioners to help them navigate the new rules.