Legal Aid Evidence Requirements Relaxed for Domestic Violence Victims
Our Family Law team at Clarkson Hirst has experience in assisting the most vulnerable of clients, and we can advise you as to whether legal aid is available to your specific case.
From the 8th January 2018, new rules have come into play whereby the legal aid requirements for evidence of domestic violence have been widened. The evidence requirements are set out in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offences Act (LASPO) 2012, however, the government has received criticism and pressures to review the evidence requirements as a number of victims were failing to meet them; Victims were finding themselves in the middle of private family law disputes without legal representation.
Justice Minister Dominic Raab responded to these pressures and said “we have listened to victim groups and carefully reviewed the criteria for legal aid victims of domestic abuse in family cases.”
The changes mean that there will no longer be a time limit on the evidence that victims are able to provide. There was previously a 5 year time limit and therefore any evidence over that limit was deemed unacceptable by the Legal Aid Agency.
Further to this, the variety of evidence now being accepted by the Legal Aid Agency has been widened to include statements written by support organisations and housing support officers. We agree this should assist those that have the difficult and emotional task of proving that they are a victim.
The changes do not stand alone. The government has previously announced a £17 million fund to support 41 projects across the country in order to tackle domestic violence against women and girls. Raab commented that the changes will “ensure vulnerable women and children get legal support so their voice is properly heard in Court”.
If you find yourself in a private family law dispute, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Family Law team. Kerry, Suzanne, Amy or Leah can advise you as to whether legal aid is likely to be available to you and are able to take your instructions from one of our 3 offices in Lancaster, Kendal or Barrow-in-Furness.