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Domestic violence: legal aid challenge fails

The High Court has rejected an application from domestic violence charities to remove a regulation from the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO).

Since the introduction of LASPO, legal aid has been cut for almost all family law cases but people can still qualify for help if they can prove they are a victim of domestic violence.

Campaign group Rights of Women challenged regulation 33 of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012. This sets out what is required for proof of domestic violence when someone is applying for legal aid. The group, with support from The Law Society, claimed the regulation was unlawful because it prevented apparent victims from accessing legal aid.

However, the High Court ruled that the Secretary of State for Justice acted within his powers when the regulations were created.

Rights of Women called the ruling “deeply disappointing”. They claimed that two women are killed by current or former partners every week and that 500 domestic violence victims commit suicide every year.

Emma Scott is the director of the group. She said she was “devastated by the outcome of our legal challenge”. Around 40 per cent of victims do not have the evidence required by regulation 33 to qualify for legal aid, she added.

Law Society President Andrew Caplen also voiced his disapproval of the ruling. He said the regulation was “yet another example of the draconian cuts affecting vulnerable clients”.

Victims “are being forced to face their perpetrators in court without legal representation” as a result of LASPO, Caplen said.

To read the full judgement, click here.

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. Andrew says:

    Elephant in the room speaking.

    To give legal aid to the party who alleges domestic violence and refuse it to the party against whom it is alleged is a breach of Article 6 waiting to be declared incompatible.

    It is also bad news for the accuser whom it exposes to the possibility of the opponent exercising the right to cross-examine in person. And I mean RIGHT: it took primary legislation to abrogate the right to cross-examine the complainant in person in a rape trial in the Crown Court, and there has been no such legislation in the civil or family courts.

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