Legal aid lawyers welcomed news today that the government is to drop restrictions imposed under LASPO on legal aid for domestic violence victims.
The justice minister, Dominic Raab, said that the government had listened to victims’ groups and ‘carefully reviewed the criteria for legal aid for victims of domestic abuse in family cases’. ‘These changes make sure that vulnerable women and children get legal support so their voice is properly heard in court.’
To qualify for legal aid under the scheme, applicants must submit evidence from a prescribed list – for example, an unspent conviction, a letter from a doctor detailing injuries or a condition consistent with domestic violence or a domestic violence protection order – from five years before the application for legal aid.
The government will scrap the five-year limit and allow for more types of evidence. ‘The government’s decision will make it easier for victims to provide evidence and to qualify for legal aid,’ commented Law Society president Joe Egan. ‘The five year time limit causes difficulties for victims who were abused more than five years ago but have no recent documents to prove this,’ Egan said.
‘The forms of evidence required have also been very restrictive,’ Egan continued. ‘Broadening the types of evidence that can be accepted to include statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing support officers will remove many of the difficulties faced by victims. Legal aid is a lifeline for those who have suffered abuse. It is often the only way someone can bring their case before the courts.’
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