27 October, 2022
Legal Aid Support is available for victims of domestic abuse but only if they meet the stringent means and evidence test as set out by the Legal Aid Agency. For those who do not meet those requirements the consequences could be devastating. Those consequences could mean no protection of further abuse, having to pay privately (and risk financial difficulties), or having to represent themselves against their perpetrator in Court.
The Government has now announced that thousands of domestic abuse victims will be able to access free legal advice and representation under new changes to the Legal Aid system introduced this week.
This has been introduced in an effort to support the use of Domestic Abuse Protection Notices, and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders which were introduced under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
Once introduced the Police will be able to issue Protection Notices to provide immediate protection, an example would be requiring a perpetrator to leave a victim's home.
A Protection Order would provide longer term protection for a victim, an example would be ordering the perpetrator to attend a Domestic Abuse Perpetrator programmes or wearing an electronic tag.
Victims protected by these will now have access to free legal advice and representation. It is in effect widening the scope for those victims and survivors who may not have automatically been eligible under the current Legal Aid evidence requirements.
Justice Minister Lord Bellmay KC commented that "legal advice should always be available to those who need it, especially victims of domestic abuse who often rely on lawyers to ensure that they are protected from abusers …… by making it easier for victims to access Legal Aid, more people would be better supported through Court proceedings and then start the process of moving on safely with their lives."
It is unknown as to when these changes would be fully implemented with it being suggested that a pilot would be carried out first of all.
For more information contact Adrienne Baker in our Family/Divorce department via email or phone on 01254 580 000. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.
Learn more about our Family/Divorce department here