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Legal aid changes

Campaign group, Rights of Women, have won an appeal in the Court of Appeal challenging the legal aid rules.

The Court of Appeal have ruled that government changes to legal aid for victims of domestic abuse are unlawful.

The rule that a victim has to prove that they have been subjected to abuse within the last 24 months has been deemed unlawful. Rights of Women argued that this particularly affected women who had been victims of financial abuse.

The legal aid rules, which came in to force in April 2013, have meant that many victims of abuse have been unable to secure legal aid as they have not been able to prove that they have been a victim. This has left victims even more vulnerable, having to face their perpetrator in court, for example.

Rights of Women will be working with the Ministry of Justice on amendments to the rules to ensure that legal aid is available to women affected by all forms of abuse.

One of the Judges in the case, Lord Justice Longmore, said “Legal aid is one of the hallmarks of a civilised society.”

Director Rights of Women, Emma Scott has said: “The Court of Appeal has accepted our arguments that the fear of a perpetrator does not disappear after 2 years and recognised that forms of violence such as financial abuse are almost impossible for women to evidence.”

This is a significant outcome for victims of abuse and those who support them as it should open the door to more legal aid being made available when victims are involved in family law matters.

We will update you further when the regulations have been amended. Watch this space.

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