From January 2018, the strict time limit for legal aid evidence in domestic violence cases has been scrapped.
Until now, victims of domestic abuse have had to produce evidence of that abuse having taken place within the last five years in order to seek access to legal aid. The Ministry of Justice has now announced that they will remove any time limit in this type of case. This is a long awaited relaxation of the strict requirements that have prevented many being able to secure legal aid to obtain legal representation in family proceedings. The rules that have applied until now came into force following the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LAPSO) 2012. These strict requirements introduced in 2012 have in many cases resulted in victims of domestic abuse having to represent themselves in court. This means they have sometimes had to face their abusive ex partner alone within the court arena. This will no doubt have been an intimating and daunting challenge for those presented with that situation. As a result, some may have chosen not to seek protective orders for themselves or their children due to the prospect of having to face the ordeal alone without legal representation. The changes to the evidence requirements, which have been made following pressure from organisations supporting victims of domestic violence, will now ensure that vulnerable victims of abuse can gain access to legal representation more easily. Financial eligibility restrictions will still apply, but that has always been the case.
The exact detail of the new legalisation is yet to be released but we understand that the range of documents that will be accepted as evidence of domestic abuse will also be widened. Acceptable evidence will now include statements from domestic violence support groups and housing officers, alongside the documents that are currently accepted such as those from medical professionals and social services.
Wolferstans have a large family department, with a dedicated team that specialise in working with and representing victims of domestic abuse. Many of those team members are members of Resolution, who were one of the organisations instrumental in achieving this change in the legal aid requirements for victims of domestic abuse. We are hopeful that these changes will empower victims to seek the legal advice that they may not have been able to access previously.
If you need advice about any family law issues, including those highlighted in this article, call Wolferstans on 01752 292288 or email email@example.com