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Domestic violence: campaigners call for legal aid change

Campaigners gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London yesterday to publicise their challenge to the current legal aid rules.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) effectively eliminated legal aid for all family law cases between individuals, such as divorce.

While there is an exception in the Act for domestic violence cases, campaign group Rights of Women claim the evidence level required to qualify for legal aid is too high.

As things stand, if someone wishes to allege domestic violence, they must produce certain evidence against their partner. This can include a criminal conviction for domestic violence, a police caution or a court finding of fact. Any allegation of domestic violence must be backed up with official written documentation, such as a letter from the police.

Rights of Women believe these requirements have prevented many victims of domestic violence from getting the legal aid they require to effectively challenge their abusers in court. As a result, the group claims, these women put themselves at risk of further violence.

Backed by the Public Law Project and the Law Society, Rights of Women have taken their objection to the High Court, arguing that the rules do not reflect the intention of LASPO.

Emma Scott, director of Rights of Women said the challenge was undertaken “to hold the government to account on their promise to continue to make family law legal aid available to victims of domestic violence.”

The government disputes the group’s claims. A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the “majority” of applications for legal aid in domestic violence cases since the introduction of LASPO have been approved.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. mimster says:

    Even though you are in court, it did not mean that you will not get any further abused. This time it will come with the other ( legalism) looking abuse which try to silent you . When you told anybody they just looked at you like you had been made up the story – when you reported to the police , it made you feels worse and they would not take any words from you seriously – – – even you had been so supportive for any further contact between the opposite side with the children. Because you believe that the abuser may just target only you but should spare his kids . Trust me, It was not that very difference.
    It is amazed to see how less sympathised you got from any other agencies who involved with it – Now the court has 26 weeks target , the new 2014 law to meet ( which so far you needs to finger cross that the cafcass is doing the job properly and fairly for your children best interest.) I m not sure that the justice will be meet for any of us.As far as the attitude from every parties are not change.
    This world is not the poor domestic abuse victim ‘s world. No body really want to hear the truth and nobody actually really care.

  2. Yvie says:

    Solicitor to client: You are not entitled to legal aid I am afraid, so you will have to meet the cost of your divorce and custody proceedings yourself. – unless of course there has been domestic violence.

    Client to Solicitor – well he did give me a funny look out of the corner of his eye.

    Solicitor to client – glad you have pointed that out to me, domestic violence it is then!.

  3. Luke says:

    “As things stand, if someone wishes to allege domestic violence, they must produce certain evidence against their partner.”
    Evidence must be produced ? How shocking…

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