Monday 8th January 2018 saw changes in requirements for legal aid for domestic abuse victims come into force.
Our article in early December highlights the Ministry of Justice’s plans.
And we are pleased to see that the changes are now in force.
So, what does it mean for victims of domestic abuse?
Most importantly, it means more people can get help!
The five year limit has been removed.
You now can produce evidence of domestic abuse which may be older than 5 years.
Types of evidence expanded
You can now use:
- Statements from domestic abuse organisations
- Letters from solicitors you instruct
- Letters from housing officers
Seeking help can be scary. So, it is important to that it is easier for victims to get evidence from people they are seeking help from.
Talking to police, doctors and those in ‘authority’ can feel daunting for some. You may worry that you won’t be believed. They also may not give you practical advice, so you seek help from those that can. So, it is vital that this help can be produced for evidence.
1/3 victims unable to produce evidence to obtain Legal Aid
In 2015, the Commons Justice Select Committee produced a highly critical report.
It states that one third of domestic abuse victims were unable to produce the evidence in requirements for legal aid.
Finally, some 2 years later, it is being recognised that the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) requirements are too limited.
Samantha Lee explains, “All along we have said that LASPO would result in vulnerable people being denied access to justice. The 2015 report shows exactly this.”
“It takes strength, courage and often a lot of time to reach the decision to seek help. Domestic abuse by its very nature leaves the victim feeling powerless and controlled. So, when you seek help, you don’t want doors shut in your face because you haven’t produced the ‘right’ evidence.”
Samantha continues, “The changes in requirements for legal aid for domestic abuse victims are essential. It means that we can help more vulnerable people which in the Swain and Co family department we are committed to doing”.