Victory for campaign groups as MOJ changes legal aid evidence requirements for survivors of domestic violence
Published: February 24 2017
We are delighted to see that the Government has brought in changes to the evidence requirements for legal aid for family cases so as to remove the time limit on evidence, and to include statements from domestic violence organisations.
The removal of these restrictions will have a real impact on increasing much needed access to justice for domestic violence survivors, and it is a tribute to the tenacity of Rights of Women, and its courageous action in challenging restrictions on legal aid through the courts, and to the brilliant work of Women’s Aid and other domestic violence organisations which have lobbied for these changes to be made.
PLP represented Rights of Women in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, where the Government accepted the ruling that the legal aid restrictions were unlawful.
The Court of Appeal judgment can be found here, and our previous press release is here.
A significant feature of major reforms to the civil legal aid scheme in 2013 was the removal of family cases from the scope of the scheme. Although Parliament provided that survivors of domestic violence should remain eligible for help in such cases, the changes came into force together with regulations that required applicants to provide very specific evidence to prove their eligibility for legal aid.
In practice, this evidence was often difficult to get, particularly where applicants had suffered non-physical forms of abuse. In many cases it was also subject to a 24 month time limit, although evidence showed that perpetrators often remain a threat to survivors long after this.
The Guardian published an article on 23 February 2017, here.