Women’s Aid Research shows many victims of Domestic Abuse are not able to access Legal Aid

Evidencing domestic violence: a barrier to family law legal aid

This is the title of the newly published research from Women’s aid on accessibility of Legal Aid following the Legal Aid changes in April 2013.

There is a link at the bottom of the post to the report.

The report is shocking and needs to be read. It says what we all know. This is that victims of abuse are struggling to access legal aid.

I had a recent case where we lost 2 weeks because the MARAC letter used the wrong wording. The letter was on a standard template being used by MARAC (Multi Agency Child Protection Conference). Lucky, that I noticed. However, because the case didn’t meet the Legal Aid Agency’s urgency criteria, we had to wait another month for legal aid to be granted.

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Read the full report. I have repeated the key findings here;

Prior to the implementation of LASPO and its accompanying regulations, Rights of  Women, with Women’s Aid England and Welsh Women’s Aid, had expressed very serious concerns that the prescribed and exhaustive list of evidence criteria would mean that many women who had experienced or continued to experience domestic violence would not be able to satisfy the regulations and the gateway to family law legal aid. Our research with Welsh Women’s Aid, Evidencing domestic violence: the
facts3 published during the passage of LASPO through Parliament demonstrated that 54.4% of women accessing Welsh Women’s Aid’s member services as survivors of domestic violence would not meet the evidence criteria (as then proposed4). 

Following the implementation of LASPO we have undertaken further research to establish the impact of the domestic violence evidence gateway on survivors of domestic violence to understand its impact on women’s ability to access advice and representation in private family law cases.

Our findings show that the legal aid regulations are restricting access to legal advice and representation to women affected by domestic violence, women whom the Government has expressly sought to protect from the removal of family law from the scope of legal aid.

1. Key findings

• Half of all women in both surveys who had experienced or were experiencing domestic violence did not have the prescribed forms of evidence to access family law legal aid. This reflects the findings of our earlier research on the gateways.

• 16.7% of respondents to our survey had to pay over £50 to obtain copies of the required evidence.

• 37.5% of respondents had to wait longer than 2 weeks to get copies of their evidence.

• 60.5% of respondents took no action in relation to their family law problem as a result of not being able to apply for legal aid. 23.7% paid a solicitor privately and 15.8% represented themselves at court.

Here is the report as a PDF;

Womens Aid Report Evidencing domestic violence November 2013

And here is a link;

http://www.rightsofwomen.org.uk/pdfs/Policy/Evidencing_domestic_violence_II.pdf

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