Legal aid court ruling is welcomed

Northumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has welcomed a legal aid change for domestic violence cases

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 10:01
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.

Government rules restricting access to legal aid for domestic violence victims have been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal.

It means the Government will now have to remove the stipulation that people applying for legal aid have to produce evidence of domestic violence within the previous two years.

Ms Baird said: “The decision by the Court of Appeal should pave the way for more victims of domestic abuse to get the help they need. It’s clear to me the controversial and unacceptable measures had been the Government’s way of rationing the access to funds rather than qualifying need.”

Legal aid is intended to enable the victim to get the court to address vital issues such as determine parenting arrangements for their children, financial support for them and also the family’s housing arrangements.

Research by campaign group Rights of Women, who appealed against a high court judgment that upheld the evidence requirements as lawful found that 40% of the women didn’t have the stipulated evidence to be able to apply for legal aid, something Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, has described as ‘completely unacceptable’.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The former regulations also effectively excluded victims who have suffered other forms of abuse such as financial abuse.

Ms Baird, said: “Too many victims of domestic abuse, who have found the strength to come forward, have been let down by a system blocking them from accessing necessary legal aid.

“As it was, people making allegations needed separate and very specific categories of evidence as well as their own testimony. However, much domestic violence, by definition, occurs between two people away from public view. Put simply - the system was failing victims.

“It’s the Government’s responsibility to ensure victims of domestic abuse and their dependents are given the help they need otherwise they will fall through the net and may continue to suffer at the hands of their abuser.”