Recent protests in London about domestic violence have raised concerns over the restrictions of legal aid. Recent challenges to the law on legal aid include the ‘Access to Justice’ campaign, headed by the Law Society which overtly calls for a revision in legislation that dictates the rules on legal funding for victims of domestic abuse.
The aim of such challenges is to offer more protection to victims of domestic violence, which many feel, is not possible under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offender Act 2012. Earlier calls for reform regarding domestic violence have resulted in a consultation into the ways in which the law could be strengthened. It is hoped that similar action will be taken regarding the restrictions on legal aid in light of the recent public demonstrations.
Clearly many of the public feel that current law is insufficient, leaving victims vulnerable to further acts of violence. The implementation of legislation of legal funding has seen the removal of legal aid from virtually all areas of private family law in the past 18 months. Although the law states that where domestic violence has been involved then victims would be eligible for legal aid, this clause is still regimented by strict guidelines.
Under current law for victims of violence to qualify for legal aid they are required to provide sufficient evidence such as a letter from a GP, documentation to prove a partner is on bail or has previous convictions of violence, or that they have spent time at a refuge. Considering the area of the law these guidelines seem anti productive as many actions of domestic abuse go unreported, which means many victims are unable to meet the evidential requirements.
Research conducted by Rights of Women, Women’s Aid appears to legitimise this concern. The results showed that of those that had suffered domestic violence, 43% of victims did not have the required documentation and were unable to qualify for legal funding. The present law also fails to take into consideration those who have been victims of psychological abuse which under the current evidential requirements would be exceedingly difficult to prove.
Here at Farleys our family department specialises in domestic abuse cases. If you have been a victim of violence please don’t hesitate to contact one of our experienced solicitors today on 0845 050 1958 or email us.