Campaign group the Rights of Women have been given permission to challenge the lawfulness of government restrictions on legal aid.
The voluntary organisation claims that the restrictions on legal aid introduced by year’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act often prevent genuine victims of domestic violence from securing legal funding, despite an apparent exemption in the Act for domestic violence cases.
Currently people seeking legal aid funding for claims of domestic violence are required to submit certain kinds of evidence, such as a conviction held by their partner or a police caution. The group claim these requirements mean vulnerable women unable produce such evidence can be left at risk of further violence.
Rights of Women argued therefore that the LASPO had failed to fulfil the expectations of Parliament.
A ‘substantive hearing’ (one featuring a ruling or decision) is now expected before the end of the year.
The organisation’s case was represented by legal charity the Public Law Project. The application was also supported by the Law Society. President Andrew Caplen. He said:
“It is great news that the Court has recognised that the harm being done to the victims of domestic violence by the restrictive regulations this government brought in may be unlawful. We welcome the swift timetable for hearing the case, as those suffering as a result of these rules need clarity as soon as possible.”
On Friday, members of the Rights of Women gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in London to await a decision on their application.