Government to loosen domestic violence restrictions for legal aid

Family Law|December 5th 2017

Current restrictions on the provision of legal aid in family court cases involving domestic violence will be loosened next year, the government has announced.

Under present regulations, legal aid is only available if the party claiming to have experienced violence – or who is thought to be at significant risk of it – can provide certain types of evidence and if the alleged violence took place within the last five years.

But this will change next month, Justice Minister Dominic Raab explained:

“We have listened to victims’ groups and carefully reviewed the criteria for legal aid for victims of domestic abuse in family cases.”

Now the five year time limit will no longer apply, and a wider range of evidence for abuse will be accepted, including statements by victim support charities and housing officers – in addition to the Police, doctors and social workers.

The Minister claimed the changes would benefit the predominantly female victims of domestic violence:

“These changes make sure that vulnerable women and children get legal support so their voice is properly heard in court.”

He did not say what would occur if their other party in the case was themselves unable to afford legal representation but also ineligible for aid.

The restrictions were introduced by the much discussed Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), which came into force in 2013.

Full details of the changes will be available when the new regulations are published later this week.

Elspeth Thomson is chair of the legal aid committee at family law organisation Resolution. She said:

“We’ve been calling for changes to the evidence gateway since LASPO was implemented in 2013 and welcome this news. Parliament has committed to protect victims of domestic abuse so ministers have a duty to ensure that those who need legal aid are able to access it.”

Campaign group Rights of Women previously battled the restrictions on evidence through the courts, finally securing a Court of Appeal ruling in their favour last year.

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  1. Stephen Tierney says:

    Yet more bias.

    It should be available to BOTH parties.

    Yet more proof that if enough women moan and complain they get what they want.

  2. spinner says:

    This is completely unfair, if one side is given legal aid on the basis of nothing more than an allegation then both sides need to be given it.

  3. Family Lawyer says:

    Domestic violence is one family issue that should be look out for. And loosening the restrictions of legal aid from the government is favorable event for people who experienced and still experiencing domestic violence. Therein, they truly have someone to rely on and can easily report any abuse from a family member. Hopefully, the said legal will be regulated accordingly and is truthfully committed to extend help to violently harassed individuals.

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