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Domestic violence legal aid changes ‘invalid’

Current legal aid requirements in domestic violence cases have been declared “invalid”.

When the coalition government introduced the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) in 2013, they effectively eliminated legal aid in family law cases. However LASPO made an exception for victims of domestic violence if they could prove it had occurred within the previous two years.

Campaign groups claimed that the level of proof required was so high that many victims were rejected “at the first hurdle” when they applied for help. Last month one such campaign group –Rights of Women – claimed that as many as 40 per cent of victims go without legal aid. The group applied to the High Court for the changes to be declared unlawful but were denied in January 2015.

They later challenged that ruling in the Court of Appeal, and today, Lord Justice Longmore, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lady Justice Macur reversed that decision and ruled that the requirements were “invalid”. They were also critical of the exclusion of financial abuse victims from legal aid. Financial abuse is the unlawful use of someone else’s money or property.

Rights of Women director Emma Scott called today’s decision an “important recognition of women’s real life experiences of domestic violence”. As a result, she continued, more victims would have “access to advice and representation in the family courts”.

Fellow campaign group Women’s Aid welcomed the decision, calling the two year rule “grossly unfair” as domestic violence and abuse can often carry on after a relationship has ended.

The Law Society supported Rights of Women during their initial High Court application. President Jonathan Smithers said the Court of Appeal’s ruling meant that “access to safety and justice will no longer be denied to the very people the government expressly sought to protect”.

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:

    Frpm Longmore LJ:

    “Legal aid is one of the hallmarks of a civilised society. Domestic violence is a blot on any civilised society but is regrettably prevalent. It is therefore no surprise that in an age of austerity, when significant reductions in the availability of legal aid are being made by Parliament, legal aid is preserved for victims of domestic violence who seek protective court orders or who are parties to family law proceedings against the perpetrator of the violence. The main reason for that preservation, apart from natural sympathy with the victims of domestic violence, is that they will be intimidated and disadvantaged in legal proceedings, if they are forced to represent themselves against and perhaps be cross-examined by the perpetrator of the violence.”

    By Victim he presumably means Complainant, and he has forgotten the word Alleged before perpetrator, but that is par for the course.

    What is very odd is that he forgets to explain why it is acceptable for the alleged perpetrator to be denied legal aid and be cross-examined by counsel for the complainant when he stands to lose his home, his children, his pension, everything he has in the world.

    • Stitchedup says:

      Absolutely Andrew, the elephant in the room is the blatant breach of article 6. It speaks volume about the level of bias ingrained within the judiciary and the UK legal systems… civil and criminal.

  2. The Devil's Advocate says:

    Sorry to disappoint all these women’s groups who are crying “crocodile tears” but it should be brought to their attention the following which is only one point of many to give protection and support to those who can show such evidence for such legal support: The Civil Legal Aid (Proceedings) Regulations 2012 Regulation 33 (2) (d) “Relevant Protective Injunction”, and this latter is only one factual point which allows those who have been “abused or alleged to have been abused’ (even it the evidence is false and perjury committed by all those concerned-applicant, respondent and officers of Courts and other public servants.)
    Please report responsibly John, on this one particular issue as you are acting with false evidence and doing Marilyn Stow a disservice.

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