Legal aid for domestic abuse victims

Court of Appeal rules government regulations to remove access to legal aid for domestic abuse victims is unlawful

Judges in the Court of Appeal has ruled that new measures that meant domestic abuse victims were unable to access legal aid are unlawful.

The judges, Lord Justice Longmore, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lady Justice Macur, ruled that legislation introduced in 2014 that stopped domestic abuse victims accessing legal aid if they did not provide evidence of abuse within 24 months was unlawful as it contradicted a previous Act of Parliament.

The judges concluded: “A considerable body of evidence…[shows] that potential applicants for legal aid had been (or were likely to be) refused legal aid in circumstances in which, it was submitted, Parliament had intended legal aid to be available.”

The case was brought to the court by women’s charity Rights of Women. The Director of Rights for Women said: “For nearly three years we know that the strict evidence requirements for legal aid have cut too many women off from the very family law remedies that could keep them and their children safe. Today and important judgement means that more women affected by domestic violence will have access to advice and representation in the family courts.

“The Court of Appeal has accepted our arguments that the fear of a perpetrator does not disappear after two years and recognised that forms of violence such as financial abuse are almost impossible for women to [prove]. We look forward to working with the Ministry of Justice on amendments to the regulations to ensure that women affected by all forms of domestic violence are able to get legal aid.”

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