The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has launched a survey on domestic violence and legal aid.
The government hopes to gather information from professionals such as lawyers on their experience dealing with victims in these cases. Participants will be asked to estimate how many victims of domestic violence need legal aid to resolve their private law disputes such as divorce or child contact. They will also be asked what they believe would be the most straightforward way for victims to get legal aid and if they believe that “there are obstacles that prevent individuals from fulfilling the evidence requirements”.
Currently, people must provide evidence such as a letter from a doctor or a domestic violence protection order from up to five years prior to their application in order to qualify for legal aid. The level of proof needed has been condemned by domestic violence campaign groups like Rights for Women. In February, they successfully applied to the Supreme Court for a declaration that some of the changes to law on legal aid were invalid.
Law Society president Jonathan Smithers urged solicitors to participate in the MoJ survey as “they work on the frontline and can report on the challenges which the current evidence requirements place on victims of domestic violence”.
However, Labour MP Dawn Butler criticised the survey in the House of Commons this week, questioning if it was “a reasonable way to show that [the government takes] the situation seriously”. It would be better to have “a full, open, public and transparent consultation”, she claimed.
The survey closes on 1 July and is available here.