Shelley Workman, family lawyer at Coodes Solicitors, explains how changes to Legal Aid Regulations will make all the difference for those who have suffered domestic violence.
From January 2018 it will be easier for victims of domestic abuse to qualify for legal aid, the government announced today.
The Ministry of Justice have agreed to get rid of the five-year time limit for some forms of evidence and to accept a wider range of documents as evidence. Today a statutory instrument amending the Legal Aid Regulations will be laid in parliament.
Legal aid has always been available to people involved in private family disputes if they are victims or risk becoming victims of domestic abuse or child abuse but the requirements for evidence in highly prescribed forms have made it impossible for some victims to qualify.
Also some qualifying evidence has ‘expired’ after a 24-month time limit, despite the fact that perpetrators may remain a lifelong threat. Following a Court of Appeal ruling in February 2016, the rule was relaxed giving a five-year expiry period, now it has been decided to remove the time limit altogether.
Justice Minister Dominic Raab in a Westminster debate last week said that his department had been working with the Law Society, Rights of Women, Women’s Aid and family law group Resolution to review the criteria for legal aid for victims of domestic abuse in family cases.
These changes will make sure that vulnerable people, whether men, women or children, get legal support when needed so that their safety can be preserved and the ordeal of having to make applications in Court themselves with the alleged perpetrator standing opposite them can be avoided.
The documents which will be accepted as evidence of abuse will be widened to include statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing support officers as well as social services, law enforcement and medical professionals as now.
For advice on domestic abuse or any other family matter contact the Family Team at Coodes Solicitors on 01726 874700.