From today, 9 January 2018, changes to the rules governing legal aid, specifically the evidence that needs to be provided, will mean victims of domestic abuse who qualify financially can access legal aid. This article looks at the current position and what the changes are.
From 1 April 2013, legal aid has only been available for a limited range of family cases. These include:
- Domestic violence injunctions
- Cases involving children where there is evidence of domestic abuse against the parent or against the child
- Care proceedings
- International child abduction cases
People who are victims of domestic abuse will usually need to provide evidence – called ‘gateway’ evidence. Examples of such evidence include a relevant unspent conviction or caution for a domestic violence offence; a copy of any injunctions; evidence that the other side was on bail for a domestic violence offence; a letter from a multi-agency risk assessment conference confirming that someone was subject to a plan which had been put in place to protect them from the other side; a letter from a domestic violence support organisation confirming that someone had been in a refuge (or refused admission to a refuge); and a copy of a letter from a health professional such as a GP confirming that someone had injuries or a condition consistent with domestic abuse.
Concerns were raised that these initial requirements were too harsh. For example, they did not provide for victims of financial abuse, such as where one person is financially controlling the other. It was also felt they were too time-limited, as the violence in question had to have taken place in the preceding 24 months.
In February 2017, this time limit was extended to cover the preceding 60 months. At the same time, there was an agreement that evidence of financial abuse could be considered.
The latest changes will be implemented from today, 9 January 2018. So what does this mean?
- The 60-month time limit is being ditched
- Victims of domestic violence will be able to use statements from domestic violence support organisations as gateway evidence
The exact details have yet to be released. However, the good news is these changes mean that more victims of domestic violence will be able to get access to legal aid.
If you have any questions about anything in this article, please call Imran Khodabocus on 01392 284 851. The Family Law Company can assess you for legal aid and in some emergency situations, grant you legal aid in our initial meeting. Even if you don’t qualify, your initial appointment is always free. Appointments are available in Exeter or in our office in Taunton.