The cuts made to legal aid in 2012 mean that legal aid is only available for private family law matters if it can be proved that the claimant has been a victim of domestic abuse, or if there is evidence of child abuse (and a subsequent means and merit test).
Evidence had to relate to domestic abuse within the last five years
Until recently, evidence of domestic violence needed to prove abuse in either of these situations has been labelled unjust, restrictive and often impossible to secure. The evidence had to prove that the abuse happened within the last five years. It was also limited to information provided by a restrictive number of agencies, such as law enforcement, social services and medical professionals. The Law Society says that this has led to nearly 50% of victims of abuse being unable to access legal aid.
No time limit. Range of evidence widened
The January changes, which were made in consultation with Resolution and other organisations, mean that there will no longer be a time limit on abuse evidence and the range of documents accepted has been widened to include statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing organisations. The new rules mean that legal aid should also be available for those at risk of becoming victims of domestic violence or child abuse.
This change is the latest in a series of reforms being made by the government to tackle violence against women and girls. The government has already announced that it is providing £71 million to help tackle the violence in 41 projects across the country. Justice minister, Dominic Raab, said: “These changes make sure that vulnerable women and children get legal support so their voice is properly heard in court.”
You can find more guidance on the new evidential requirements for legal aid by clicking here.
If you are in doubt as to whether you would be eligible for legal aid, or wish need help in dealing with a domestic violence case, we are happy to discuss it with you and undertake a legal aid assessment free of charge. Please contact our family department to make an appointment to discuss how we can help. You can also find out more about domestic violence and how we can help on our web pages.