Legal Aid For Domestic Abuse – a Step in the Right Direction
In this article, Andrew Brough (based at our Newcastle office) reflects on changes to the availability of legal aid for domestic abuse victims in the UK.
The changes in parameters with regard to obtaining legally aided representation in cases involving Domestic Abuse are to be welcomed following developments announced by Dominic Raab, Minster for Justice last week. The net has been widened to capture those previously unable to establish rights to legal aid qualification. The pressure upon the Ministry of Justice and the Government from various bodies concerned within the field of Family Law has, to a large extent reaped dividends and certainly after what, for legal processes, was a relatively short time after the restrictions of evidence imposed by the implementation of the 2012 LASPO Act.
It is to be hoped that the changes will persuade the organisations working in the chain of parties involved to be more pro-active in identifying and helping those people at risk of Domestic Abuse, and the children who may be witness to such. There has been from the Police in particular, a seeming reluctance to get involved in matters of Domestic Abuse, despite manifestations of such being reported by third parties, sometimes with tragic results (e.g. Alice Ruggles Trial 2017 – this case is subject to investigation by the IPCC).
It is to be hoped, and welcomed, that the current percent of Domestic Abuse victims, who for whatever reason have been unable to obtain qualification for Legal Aid, will fall dramatically. The reasons for this failure are possibly due to more than an inability to provide 5 year evidence and include lack of education in finding a pathway to help in the first instance, fear of retribution by the perpetrator, or lack of money where the family are living in reduced circumstances.
Domestic violence may be a spasmodic occurrence between perpetrator and victim, but the victim’s fear of such is a 24/7 process for many, and over a prolonged period, without outside help or intervention, will become a ‘way of life’. The changes to the restrictions first placed by LASPO may be the start of a whole process to reduce the trauma of such occurrences.